Generally, an acute injury is defined as a sudden injury resulting from a traumatic event.

One example of a traumatic event is tripping and landing on the outside of your ankle, leading to a painful and swollen ankle.

An acute injury may also result from repetitive strain or repetitive microtrauma resulting to an inflammation, such as when you start feeling some pain on the outside of your knee and can hardly walk after running for 10 kilometers.

After any trauma, the best thing to do is to go to have yourself checked by a professional, especially if you are showing signs and symptoms of serious injury.

Some of the signs and symptoms of serious injury include deformity, extreme pain, swelling, and inability to bear weight.

Most physiotherapists recommend applying the P.O.L.I.C.E. Principle as immediate treatment.

The P.O.L.I.C.E. Principle is an acronym for Protection, Optimum Loading, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, and is an effective first aid method of treating musculoskeletal injuries.

Let’s take a look at each step:



Immediately after an injury, rest the affected area for a short period. You may use a splint, brace, or crutches during this time to protect the injured parts.

The length of time for resting the injured part will depend on the severity of the injury.

For most injuries, 2 to 3 days of rest is enough, but for severe ligament sprains, you may need to rest for up to 10 days.


Optimum Loading

As you protect the injured body part, you will need to introduce some gentle movement.

For acute lateral ankle sprains, moderate walking earlier on is recommended to help reduce the swelling and speed up recovery.

Optimal loading has been proven to promote healing and prevent joint stiffness and muscle weakness.



Apply ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 2 to 3 days to help reduce pain and swelling of the injured muscle or joint.

If you don’t have a commercial ice pack, you can use a plastic bag containing crushed ice instead.

Remember to use a wet towel when applying ice to protect the skin from ice burn.



Compression after an acute injury is necessary to prevent the affected part from further swelling, proprioception, and immobilization.

This is usually applied using a bandage on top of ice wrapping. Make sure that the bandage is not too tight, as this can cause discomfort and might also restrict blood flow.



Elevating the affected body part helps alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Rest the injured ankle or knee on pillows, with the leg above the level of the pelvis.

To elevate an elbow or wrist, you may need to use a sling.


How Physiotherapy Can Help

Although the P.O.L.I.C.E. Principle is recommended immediately following an acute injury, you should still go to a physiotherapy center so a physio can determine the appropriate protection and treatment for your injury.

Your physiotherapist can also give you advise on when it is time to stop protecting the injury and start moving the injured body part.

You will also be given proper guidance as to how to perform optimal loading, performing simple exercises and movements that would allow your injured muscle or ligament to heal properly.

And as your injury heals, your physiotherapist will also prescribe other exercises that would further help in your recovery .




Tim Ellis is the Principal Physiotherapist at Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness in Mascot, New South Wales, Australia.

He specialises in treating complex necks and backs and developing highly effective exercise programs for his patients.

Tim is committed to integrative health, healthy eating, exercise, and life long learning which he shares through his blogs.