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Effective ways to manage inflammation

Inflammation generally occurs following an injury such as a sprain or strain to a ligament. This is the body’s way of starting the healing process, but it’s important to limit the amount of swelling that occurs as this can result in irreparable damage.

When does inflammation happen?

When one of the ligaments is damaged, it will become strained or sprained.

A strain is when a small tear occurs in the muscle fibres, and a sprain involves damage to the ligament tissue.

The cells that become damaged release chemicals, resulting in inflammation around the affected area.

To aid the healing process, it’s important that the swelling doesn’t become too serious. This can be achieved by following the right treatment programme.

Diagram showing the different gradings of a lateral ankle sprain

Managing inflammation

In the initial stages following a ligament injury, the RICE system should be followed. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and will limit the amount of swelling and help to speed up the recovery process.

It’s vital that this process is started as soon as possible and continues as long as the area is swollen and painful. If it’s followed correctly, the symptoms should start to lessen. If this doesn’t happen, you should consult a medical professional for further advice.

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation


By allowing the injured ligament to rest fully after an injury, you will reduce the risk of it getting worse and enable it to fully recover.

If the injury is to the foot or ankle and it’s painful to walk on, you should try to stay off it as much as possible. Pain-relieving medication such as ibuprofen can be used if necessary.


Ice therapy can have a number of benefits for an inflamed joint.

It will reduce the pain and limit the flow of blood from the damaged tissues, which reduces the degree of swelling and lessens the amount of tissue damage.

There are a number of ways in which you can apply an ice treatment, including the use of cold packs or an ice bag. The process should be followed for 20 minutes every two hours, or as directed by your GP or physiotherapist. There are some circumstances and areas that are not suitable for ice treatment, so you should check with a medical professional before using it.

An infographic showing the difference between applying ice and heat following an injury


Compressing the affected area will help to limit the amount of swelling and aid recovery, especially if done early on in the treatment process.

Typically compression comes in the form of a brace and is worn when active to help manage inflammation on the move, as well as offering pain relieving qualities.


If you keep the affected area higher than the heart, it allows fluid and blood to flow away. This stops it building up around the injured area, reducing pain and limiting the amount of swelling.

Following any injury it is important to follow the RICE principles and should that fail to yield any positive results within a couple of days then you should speak with a medical professional as further treatment may be required such as physiotherapy, bracing or even surgery (in severe cases).