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When To Use Compression

By Dr. Ashley Todd

Compression can help sooth and heal many injuries, including sprained or strained ligaments and tendons. While it's easy to tell if you have a sprained ankle or an inflamed tendon,  a feeling of warmth, swelling, and pain are the usual signs  it's hard to know what's the right course of action. In some cases, it's compression.

What is Compression?

Compression is to wrap an injured area of the body with an elastic bandage that provides gentle pressure. There are many different ways to compress an injury, the most common and versatile is a long strip of elastic bandage that comes in many widths and lengths and is designed to be wrapped around a joint, like the ankle, elbow, wrist, or knee. Other options include elastic bandages specifically made to fit particular joints, like knees, wrists, or ankles, or compression stocking for either part or the whole legs, and compression girdles for the back and abdomen.

How Does it Help?

Compression around injured joints can hold injured joins and soft tissue in place while it heals, and the gentle pressure of the elastic bandage will reduce swelling. Wrapping injured or weak join regularly while an injury heals or when putting a lot of stress on a joint during sports, for example can promote healing and prevent further injury.

Compression can also address swollen legs due to water retention, or diabetes. In this case, compression stockings or socks can help regulate blood flow and fluid levels in the legs and provide needed support. Individuals who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome can find relief by using compression wrist supports and gloves that pressure on the wrists while allowing the fingers to move freely.

Essentially, compression best addresses soft tissue injuries. A good rule when addressing a muscular sprain or strain is the RICE method.

R- REST: be sure to rest the injured area to promote healing and prevent worsening the injury

I- ICE: apply ice packs for no more than 20 minutes at a time to the injured area. Repeat every 3-4 hours for 48 hours after the injury occurs.

C- COMPRESSION: as described above, use an elastic compression bandage to stabilize the injured areas, reduce swelling, and promote healing. Be sure not to wrap the bandage so tight that the area looses blood flow.

E- ELEVATION: elevating the injury, preferably above the level of the heart, will help reduce swelling.

Dr. Todd has an extensive athlete base with his specialized approach to the biomechanics of sport. He is the owner of Performance Chiro and Sports Rehab.

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