STAGE 1: COMPRESSION
Compression should be applied to an injury as soon as possible to minimise the space available for swelling to become established. Furthermore, the potential for swelling is ongoing and dependent on the size of the area injured. Consequently, a big joint or large anatomical surface area can potentially swell for 72 – 90 hours following injury, whereas the swelling time for a small area will be significantly shorter. Therefore, it is important that compression is not removed too early.
The compression applied must also have something to absorb the outward tissue pressure such as cotton wool or a towel wrapped around the area and held in place with a crepe bandage. Unfortunately, the application of an elasticated bandage directly to the surface of the skin will not have the same benefits and it also tends to have a tourniquet effect as the injured part endeavours to swell. This then becomes extremely painful and frequently results in it being removed. Hence the reason for using something that will absorb the outward pressure of the potential swelling, whilst retaining the anatomical shape.
Wherever possible the compression should be removed 2 - 3 times per day and the injured limb actively and gently moved 2 – 3 times, through its pain free range. The compression should then be reapplied. This type of compression can and should be retained overnight but removed and reapplied if it causes any numbness, tingling, loss of sensation or discolouration of the skin below it.