Slippery Slopes? Queenstown Physio’s Guide to Recovery this Winter

Acute joint and muscle injuries can be very painful, cause swelling and heat in the area, and can also cause painful muscle spasm. If you are unlucky enough to injure yourself on the slopes this winter, here are some helpful tips to guide you through the first 24-48 hours following injury.

1. Remain Calm
Injuries that occur on the slopes are usually fast, and unexpected! It’s normal to feel shocked, and emotional on top of the pain experienced at the sit of injury. Try to remain calm, take some deep breaths to clear your head, then focus on getting help.

2. Get to Safety and/or Get Help!
If you are in the middle of a busy slope it’s important to get to safety. You don’t need anyone bumping into you after injury, and equally you can risk injuring others if you are stopped in the middle of a slope. Get to the side of the slope if possible. If you are unable to stand, ride, or walk to the edge – put your hands up and flag down a passer-by for some help. Attention the medic or ask someone to call one.

3. Get RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
Most acute injuries benefit from using the RICE method to control pain and swelling in the first 48- 72 hours post-injury.

Take it easy, but don’t stop moving the affected area completely. Move as much as you can tolerate, but don’t force painful movements – this will help the injured tissue to repair. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and relax!

As soon as possible apply ice wrapped in a damp towel to the injured area. Leave it there for 15-20 minutes and repeat 4-8 times daily for at least 48 hours. You cannot do this too much!

Use elastic wrap or a bandage to apply compression to the injured area. If you experience throbbing, tingling, numbness, or blue looking skin in the area then the compression is too tight!! Remove it and re-wrap with less pressure. Do not use compression at night as you cannot monitor the area while asleep.

When it comes to swelling, gravity is not your friend! Keep the injured area elevated while resting, aiming to have it higher than your heart. This will limit and help to reduce swelling. Use pillows during the day or night to support the injured area.

4. Analgesia and Rest
Take some simple pain-relieving medication. Using pain-relief will allow you to move more freely, get some restful sleep, and can prevent secondary injury. If you are unsure which medication to take, or are unsure if a medication is safe for you – consult the medic or a doctor.

5. Slippery Slope
Don’t be tempted to resume skiing or snowboarding if you have not fully recovered! This is a slippery
slope and something many people do to avoid missing out on time enjoying the sport or their holiday – be warned that it usually ends in further injury or prolonged recovery!

6. Get it Checked
If your injury is not improving, is slow to recover, or you are concerned about it for any reason – get
professional advice from a physiotherapist or doctor. Queenstown Physio offers appointments Monday to Friday in
Queenstown and Frankton with a team of experienced physiotherapists – give us a call or book online.