Compensation After An Injury R.I.C.E.

RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation)

Hi, I am a physical therapist and I have seen many individuals after an injury. Yes, there is swelling pain and movement compensation. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) may be the first line of treatment to reduce pain after ruling out a more serious injury such as a fracture. For this blog, I would like to talk about the movement compensation that occurs and why it is important to find a specialist to look at your alignment as it pertains to the kinetic chain.

Have you ever seen someone after an ankle sprain rotate their foot out to the side and walks with a limp? Or walking with a trunk shift to one side? This is the body’s way of avoiding pain. Until the person can fully weight-bear on the foot the muscles in the hip and knee must work harder to accommodate the new movement. If the problem becomes chronic and the alignment is not restored, the pain may move up to the knee or hip or even the back because the joints and muscles used for the compensated movement are on overload. This is why you may hear on TV that foot orthotics help back pain. The support of the foot sets up proper alignment for the knee and hip as the stress goes up the kinetic chain to the low back.

Often after some surgeries, such as arthroscopic knee surgery, the recovery is quick and physical therapy is not prescribed. Yes, the surgery went well, and your pain is better, but you have been walking on a knee in a compensated, mal-aligned position. Often the compensation does not return to “normal” without postural awareness and help. Your brain starts to see this “compensated” movement with associated muscle imbalance as “normal”. This is a set up for future injury and pain. The alignment issues can be resolved in a few sessions with a physical therapist. This will prevent further injury and promote healing in your post-surgical knee. If a new injury occurs from the mal-alignment it may take several months to heal especially if the swelling or inflammation does not resolve. It is important to listen to your body. Pain or discomfort is the body’s alarm system.

If you have any questions or would like to come in to see one of our therapists for a free consultation, email us at or call one of our offices to set up an appointment. Consultations are 20 min and designed to give advice and information on how we may help your recovery go smoothly.

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