PRICE. The first aid treatment for pulled muscles and most other athletic injuries is the PRICE principle. Swelling usually starts within seconds of an injury, so start PRICE as soon as possible.
- Protect. Protect the injury from further injury. Splints, pads, and crutches may help.
- Rest. Rest is necessary because continued exercise or other activity could aggravate or increase the injury. Stop using the injured part immediately after injury and restrict activity for 48 to 72 hours to allow the healing process to begin. During this time, gently start limited movement of the muscle.
- Ice. Apply ice to the injury for 15 to 20 minute every 1 to 2 hours. Ice causes blood vessels to contract and thus decreases bleeding from injured blood vessels. The more blood that collects in a wound, the longer it takes to heal. Place a towel over the injured area, and then apply ice, such as an ice pack, a package of frozen peas of corn, or a chemical cold pack. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin as it may injure it.
- Compression. Between icings, keep an elastic bandage on the injury. Compression limits swelling, which, if uncontrolled, could retard healing. Following a trauma, blood and fluid from the surrounding tissue leak into the damaged area and distend the tissue. Swelling is sometimes useful since it brings antibodies to kill germs, but, if the skin is not broken, antibodies are unnecessary and swelling only prolongs healing. You may remove the compression while sleeping but it is best to keep the compression on every while asleep.
- Elevation. Elevate the injured area to a level above the level of the heart to help drain excess fluid from the area and reduce swelling.
After the first 48 to 72 hours, it is important to focus on gentle movement of the muscle or joint, use mild resistive exercise, and continue the icing. When you are able to move the affected area without pain, gradually return to training. Let pain be your guide. You should feel some discomfort in the area but if there is pain, reduce your training level.
During your rehabilitation, you can maintain your fitness by training around your injury. Restrict yourself to training that does not affect the injured area.