Swelling happens when certain parts of your body begin to enlarge as a result of an injury. While you might think that only external parts of the body such as the legs and arms can experience swelling, it can also happen internally when your organs get injured. The enlargement of the tissues is primarily caused by inflammation or the accumulation of fluids around the affected area.
Swelling is our body’s way of helping us heal; however, while the initial development of swelling is essential for tissue repair, belabored swelling is often dangerous because the fluids may begin to attack healthy tissues. This is why swelling needs to be controlled, and it should not be left untreated.
Luckily, there are easy ways to keep swelling under control. In this article, we’ll be exploring how you can reduce swelling with compression wraps.
What are the Common Causes of Swelling?
Sports injuries often cause external swelling. A sudden twist in the ankle, a fall or a slip can cause tears in the join
ts or muscles, leading to inflammation. However, its not just physical trauma that can cause swelling. External swelling can also be caused by the following:
■ Hormonal Changes
■Minor allergic reactions
■ Adverse reaction to some drugs
These common causes are known to cause localized swelling. Localized swelling is the enlargement of a specific area of the body.
On the other hand, diabetes, cancer, venomous snake bites, and severe allergic reactions may cause widespread swelling. Often caused by severe illnesses, widespread swelling is the enlargement of a large area of the body. This type of swelling cannot be treated with simple compression, and you may need to seek immediate medical help to treat it.
How Can You Control Swelling?
You might have known that the first-aid response for swelling is the RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Here is how this method works:
As soon as you get injured or notice a swelling, it is crucial that you immediately stop what you are doing. Make sure that you protect the injury and avoid making it worse at all costs.
The application of ice on the swollen area will help to reduce pain, and it will also limit the swelling. In most cases, ice has to be applied for at least 20 minutes, three times a day for the next three days.
It is crucial because it allows the excess fluid to drain to the other parts of the body and also normalize the blood flow. Compression can be done with the help of an elastic bandage that is wrapped around the affected area.
The affected area must be elevated above the heart level with the help of pillows or any support to help facilitate normal blood flow.
Other Methods of Controlling Swelling
Although the RICE methods can be useful when it comes to taking immediate action against swelling, there are other techniques that can help reduce its effects. Some of these methods include the following:
Some medical practitioners suggest that instead of resting too much, exercise is what your body needs to reduce swelling. By allowing your body to move properly, proper blood flow will be encouraged, allowing damaged tissues to receive the oxygen and nutrients that it needs for proper healing.
Limiting Salt and Carbohydrate Intake
Salt and some carbohydrates are known as inflammatory foods. This is why even without prior injury, some people experience swelling after overeating. To help reduce inflammation and to hasten tissue repair, it is recommended that you avoid salty foods and minimize carbohydrate intake at least until your swelling or injury heals.
Weight loss can help reduce pressure in certain areas of your body and it may also help reduce swelling. Although it cannot be used as an immediate treatment for swelling, weight loss can promote health, making you less prone to injury or the development of swelling over time.
Magnesium is known to help reduce the pain associated with swelling, and it may help reduce water retention. Most physicians recommend the intake of 200 – 400mg of magnesium daily to help reduce swelling. However, because magnesium supplements may cause adverse reactions, it would be wise to ask permission from your doctor first, especially if you have existing kidney or heart problems.
Studies suggest that Epsom salts can help draw toxins from the body and help with muscle relaxation. Soaking the affected area for at least 15 minutes per day in water mixed with Epsom salts may help reduce swelling and hasten recovery.
Why is It Important to Control Swelling with Compression Wraps?
As you can see, there are many different methods that you can use to help control swelling. However, many experts agree that whether you need first-aid treatment or help with long-term recovery from swelling, compression should be on top of your list.
Here are some reasons why you should control swelling with compression wraps:
1) They Help Improve Blood Flow
Wraps help to normalize the pressure around the affected area. This will help prevent excess fluid from leaking into the tissues, thus preventing the swelling from getting worse. Compression wraps also help to maintain the integrity of the arteries and veins around the swelling. This will help to improve blood flow and allow the proper distribution of oxygen towards the damaged tissues.
2) They Move Excess Fluids
The swelling will initially help with tissue repair, but if left untreated, the enzymes and fluids meant to help with tissue healing might begin to affect healthy muscles and joints. This is why it is essential to move the excess fluids away from the affected area with the help of a compression wrap. The pressure made with the application of the compression wrap allows the excess fluid to move towards the other parts of the body, where it can be quickly drained out.
3) Compression Wraps Help Hasten Recovery
Since compression wraps help remove excess fluids and improve blood flow, they may also help hasten recovery. The circulatory system will now be able to carry oxygen and nutrients properly towards damaged tissues, and your white blood cells will now be able to oversee the healing process better.
How Can You Use Them to Control Swelling?
To put swelling under control, you need a compression wrap that is long enough to cover the affected area adequately. When wrapping, keep in mind that in order to reduce it, adequate pressure must be applied. However, you should also avoid applying the compression wrap too tightly since it can constrict the veins.
Compression wraps should never hinder movement. They should only be applied to areas that can benefit from improved blood circulation. And as a general rule of thumb, you can check for tightness by making sure that your index finger can easily go in between the wrap and the swollen area.
When applying a compression wrap, avoid using them for extended periods of time or overnight. You should also avoid using it together with ice since it can easily cause frostbite.
Here’s how you can use compression wraps in a few areas commonly impacted by injury:
1) How to control swelling with compression wraps in the ankle area:
■Sit down and allow your foot to point upwards. Make sure that the ankle and foot form a 90-degree angle.
■ Starting at the top of your foot, circle the bandage around once. Make sure that the loose end will be secured under the wrap.
■Wrap the bandage towards the opposite side of your ankle. Circle it once around the ankle area and bring it back again towards the foot.
■ Continue to wrap the foot and the ankle area in a figure 8 pattern, making sure that the entire ankle is covered and the bandage is wrapped around the arch of the foot with each pass.
■Keep the compression wrap taut, but never too tight. Make sure that the other loose end is fastened or tucked-in properly.
2) How to control swelling with compression wraps around the wrist area:
■Put the loose end of the compression wrap on your wrist just below the side of your pinky with your hand facing downwards. Wrap the bandage around the wrist once and secure the loose end underneath the wrap.
■ Pull the wrap across towards the side of your thumb and wrap it around your palm.
■From the palm, cross the compression wrap and pull it down towards the wrist. Wrap it around the wrist again once again.
■ Repeat the steps until the compression wrap is anchored securely across the palm. Use the rest of the wrap to stabilize the wrist area so that it will not be able to twist or flex easily.
■Secure the other end of the wrap with a fastener and make sure that it is not too tight. Loosen the compression wrap if you feel numbness, especially on the tip of your fingers.
3) How to control swelling with compression wraps around the knee:
■Let your leg rest on top of a chair and allow it to bend a little
■ Hold one end of the compression wrap on the side of the knee and wrap it around the knee area once. Make sure to tuck the loose end under the wrap.
■Continue to wrap the bandage around the knee. Make sure that the area 2-4 inches above and below the kneecap are also covered.
■ Fasten the other end of the compression wrap and make sure that the bandage is not too tight.
Swelling is a natural response your body employs to help protect damaged tissues and promote repair. However, in some cases, swelling does not stop on its own. The injured area may continue to swell even after the body has responded adequately to the injury. This is why swelling must be controlled before it harms the affected area further.
We highly recommended that you use RICE, the gold standard for the first-aid response for swelling immediately after getting a sprain, strain, or injury. There are also other tools that you can use to deal with it, such as the use of Epsom Salts, but these are more focused on hastening recovery instead of being used as an immediate treatment.
The best treatment for swelling by far, is the use of compression wraps. This is because compression can both be used as a preventative measure to avoid swelling and in reaction to an injury.
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