How to Treat an Acute Fitness Injury

How to treat an acute sporting or fitness injury

I’m a huge idiot.

Let me start over: I’m currently injured. And I used to play football (soccer), where injuries are more common than they should be.

Injuries can happen to anyone: It happens to the top athlete, it happens to the casual jogger and it might already happened to you. Sometimes it’s sheer bad luck.

Sports injuries can be put into one of two categories: Acute and chronic/overtraining injuries. In this post I’ll talk about acute injuries and how to deal with them.

Acute injuries

Acute injuries occurs suddenly, often when a muscle or joint is placed under more stress than it can handle: You twist your body violently during sports and tear a ligament in the knee, you fall and break you wrist. Sometimes you might not know exactly what went wrong, you’ll just suddenly feel a sharp pain.

The signs of an acute injury is

  • Pain (lots of pain). It is an important part of getting injured, because your body is telling you to stop right now,  before it gets worse. It’s your body’s way of turning on the klaxon. Listen to your body, and respect the signals it’s giving you.
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Local temperature increase (blood flow increases due to local inflammation)
  • Inability to use or bear weight on a joint or limb

Examples are

  • Sprains: injuries to ligaments
  • Strains: injuries to muscles
  • Contusions: bruises
  • Dislocations
  • Fractures: (partly) broken bones

When tissue is damaged, it often results in local inflammation. The purpose is to repair it, but it often gets out of control and does more harm than good. Therefore an important part of acute first aid is to limit the inflammation.

But how do I do that, you ask?

RCEIM is the answer (you might have heard of the more idiomatic version called RICE). Besides slowing down the inflammation, it also aims to lessen the pain.

The RCEIM-Method

1. // Rest

Stop any physical activity immediately after the injury. Continuing is very likely to make the injury worse, thus increasing the rehabilitation period. And that’s no fun!

2. // Compression

The most important element in the RCEIM procedure[1]. Applying pressure to the injured area affects the pressure level in the tissure and thus the blood circulation. This, in turn, helps lessen the swelling and pain. You can apply compression by using a compression stocking or elastic bandage. Remember to reapply it a couple of times a day for optimal use.

3. // Elevation

Keep the injured area above the heart to help venous return of  blood to circulation and in that way reduce the swelling.

4. // Ice

You can use ice water, instant cold packs or even a bag of frozen peas if that’s what’s available. There’s no clear guidelines on how often you should ice the area, but 20 minutes every other hour the first 2-3 days is most common. Remember to keep some form of barrier between the skin and ice (eg. a shirt) to prevent frostbite.

5. // Mobilisation

It is important to get moving as soon as possible without crossing your pain treshold. Moving help relieve pain since it helps the transportation of fluid away from the injured area and at the same time stimulates recovery. Moving is also an important part of preventing a decrease in the joint’s range of motion.

Remember, fighting through till the end of the game, the last mile of your run,  getting the last rep is not worth staying out of your sport for weeks. Respect your body’s limits.

I hope you’ll never have to use this, but it’s good to know just in case you or someone you know gets injured.

Take care lovelies,

Gif that says lots of love, Anne xx


  1. Christian Neergaard and Bente Andersen (red.): Sportsskader – Forebyggelse, behandling og genoptræning. (Munksgaard 2008)

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How to Treat an Acute Fitness Injury
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  1. says: Lexes

    Wow, that entire time I thought you meant you played the American football, not soccer (from you mentioning it in a post way back in December, probably)! Soccer is one of my favorite sports. I’m trying to join a recreational team where I live! Glad that you’re taking the precautions to heal!

    1. says: Anne

      Haha oh no! I have actually played a little (American) Football though – but soccer is my absolutely favorite too!! I love that you’re into it too 😀