How long after injury should I see a Physiotherapist?

Having worked in the public sector for years I have to say that the majority of the injuries we see are chronic. By this I mean that the person has been suffering with the problem for months, or even years before they seek help. Obviously long waiting times contribute to this, and sometimes it is hard for a patient to even get referred to physiotherapy in the first instance. So moving into private practise I was expecting that each client would have a relatively ‘acute’ injury, that had perhaps only happened within the last month, or two maximum.

It’s well known amongst physiotherapists that the earlier an injury can be assessed, the better it can be managed, and as a consequence the best possible prognosis for the person. Having worked a number of years in professional sport I knew that professional athletes knew this, but what about amateur or recreational athletes?

Well after months of reviewing cases, and listening to clients stories,  it would appear that there is a great divide out there. As I had thought one hundred percent of the professional athletes we work with at ESP attend for physiotherapy very early after injury, but for the most part the rest of the client base presented with injuries that were chronic! In fact around fifty percent of the clients coming through the door described a problem that they had been living with for 6 months, or more. So this got me thinking, do we need to better educate the public on the role of physiotherapy, and let people know exactly when they should be seen?

Essentially the first 3 days after any injury the person will be suffering from the effects of the trauma, and an inflammatory process will be taking effect. My advice here would be that unless there is an obvious deformity, an inability to weight bear, severe sickening pain, or a head injury then I wouldn’t necessarily worry about getting a medical opinion within the first few days, as often the person is too sore to even consider having their limb moved about, and palpated. However that said, if you are in any doubt then minor injuries, or NHS 24 can be good places to start.

So assuming that your shin bone hasn’t burst through the skin then what should you do. Your first port of call is the tried, and tested PRICE principles. These are;

P – Protection: Immobilise the limb/joint so that it isn’t being re-injured. Use a splint or a sling for this purpose. Crutches can also be good to use for the first few days.
R – Rest: For the first few days give the area a break from working so that it can begin to heal.
I – Ice: Apply an ice pack with a cover, over the area for 10 minutes at a time, multiple times per day.
C – Compression: Apply a compression bandage or tubigrip over the area, but not at night. These can be bought at your local chemist.
E – Elevation: Raise the effected body part so that the swelling will drain down into your lymph nodes. Legs should be 3 inches above your hip, and arms shoulder be above the arm pit.

Lorenz checking the integrity of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee joint 

After the first seventy-two hours have passed then comes the time to contact an HCPC | Chartered Physiotherapist. They will spend the first session taking a brief history about how the injury happened, before fully examining the injury, and establishing a diagnosis. The quicker the injury is diagnosed, the quicker a management plan can be gathered, and treatment can begin. The physiotherapist will then be working with you during the injuries repair phase, and this is what really speeds up the recovery process. It’s all about doing the right thing at the right time, and a good clinician will be worth their weight in gold during the early stages of an injury.

So the next time you hurt yourself, or if you have an issue grumbling away, remember that the earlier it is assessed, and treated the better the outcome for you!  So don’t learn to live with pain, and loss of function, book an appointment with a physiotherapist!

*All opinions and advice are our own.
**ESP accept no responsibility or blame for any injury after following our advice.

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