This provides you with information on how to manage an acute soft tissue injury using ‘POLICE’ guidance.

An example of a soft tissue injury is a muscle ‘pull’ or a ligament sprain. A soft tissue injury can occur with sudden trauma such as a twisted ankle, a blow to your arm or a pull of your hamstring or calf muscles.

Many people will know the acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) or even PRICE (Protection, Ice Compression, Elevation).  The change in the guidance has happened because the research has shown that together with protection of the painful area, Optimal Loading of the area to positively stress the tissues helps recovery. Too much rest can lead to joint stiffness and muscle weakness. This can delay return to normal function.

It is sometimes difficult to know what loading is optimal as this will be different for different parts of the body and between a muscle and ligament. In the early phases, you can use pain as an indicator. Do not be afraid to move and use the injured area within your pain limit. Ensure that you use painkillers, a mild pain is to be expected in the early days and you may feel this when you initially start to move or when you are pushing the limits of your movement. If the pain starts to decrease as you continue to gently move or withdraw from the limits of movement, this is normal. If the pain persists or gets worse it is an indication that you are probably doing too much.

You need to make sure that you keep making headway with what you are doing, as this will help your injury heal better.  For most people most symptoms will ease in the first 2 to 6 weeks for a new onset of pain or a flare-up of longstanding condition.  It can take some people longer to get back to their normal and some describe ongoing problems.

An assessment of your problem and treatment may be necessary if the POLICE guidance and self-management advice in Step 2 and Step 3 does not help. Consider seeking further help.

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