Basic First Aid for Inflammation and Swelling


In any instance where there is inflammation after a traumatic injury or due to reaggravation of a stressed area, there are a few simple strategies every mum, dad and carer will be thankful to know in a given moment. They are easy to remember:


just remember R I C E


REST - Any adjustment will aim to take the mechanical stress out of a misaligned area and promote healing. Remember, however, that healing takes time and this is the job of your body, not anyone else. Hence, weak tissues trying to stabilize will not withstand repeated stresses. Specific activities will aggravate certain conditions, so adhere to advice offered by your Chiropractor.


ICE - This is the most invaluable tool to have in managing acute conditions between adjustments. Ice causes the blood vessels to contract, decreasing blood flow in the area and limiting the inflammatory processes in the tender area. It is vitally important not to use a heat pack in a tender, inflamed area. Heat may relax the muscles, providing temporary relief. It does, however, increase inflammation, which aggravates nerves and causes further spasm, tenderness, bruising and swelling.


IF IN DOUBT, USE ICE - PARTICULARLY OVER JOINTS. Ice packs should be wrapped in a damp tea towel and applied for 15 MINUTES ON, HALF AN HOUR OFF.  Do not keep the pack on for more than 15 minutes at a time as the body will try to compensate, increasing inflammation and heating the area. Isn’t the body a great adaptor?


COMPRESSION - Compression of the area will help prevent excess swelling. Unless trained, avoid applying this for risk of exacerbating the injury.


ELEVATION - In swollen areas, elevating the area allows gravity to aid drainage of excess fluid from the area. 

Natural First Aid Kit Additions


There are some home remedies that are great to have on - hand.  Too often I speak to patients, only to be able to give them these hints after the trauma has occurred. They are inexpensive and easily purchased from supermarkets and health food stores.


SWELLING: to absorb swelling out of an area requires the purchase of Washing Soda (Lectric Soda) from a supermarket. You will find it under the clothes washing powders. One of the major supermarkets does not carry it, the other (starting with 'C' does.)


Purchase fine crystals, or crush larger crystals to the size of sand grains by wrapping in a cloth/sock and hitting with a hammer.  Place in a food processor only if it has a reasonably strong steel blade.  Place one cup or more crystals in a non – synthetic cloth / sock of open weave (depending on size of area to cover).




 Some Vaseline may be used to cover small grazes. Place the soda pack over the swollen area, wrap in glad wrap then a slightly damp towel.  The pack may be applied overnight / as long as needed but ONLY ON ALTERNATE DAYS. A lot of fluid may potentially drain out. In cases of a pimple – like rash, cover in Vaseline before any reapplication. Calendula cream / paw paw ointment will help soothe this.

Herbal Topical Ointments to keep on - hand (and Rescue Remedy)
(Available at health food shops and some chemists)


Calendula ointment / cream: A soothing, anti – inflammatory and antiseptic effect. Great for rashes, mossie bites, pimples etc.


Arnica ointment / cream: Controls bruising and swelling. Do not apply on broken skin. If you can get it on a sprain, strain or bruise within 4 hours it can really help to bring swelling down.


Comfrey ointment / cream: Slight actions as above. Increases healing rates. Do not place on broken skin unless in conjunction with an antiseptic like calendula. Good over broken bones, damaged ligaments etc. 


Rescue Remedy: A natural, safe remedy for calming down when faced with an overwhelming situation.  I keep the pastilles in every clinic and handbag I own. It's amazing in tantrums, when people break down in tears and when someone walks in after a big shock and I can tell they are not completely present.  The only irony with Rescue is that when you are stressed, it can be the last thing you think to use. So, be ready before the situation arises and the outcomes may surprise you!

***Home first aid is designed as a complementary to a professional opinion: not a replacement.

Rachel Sciberras is our resident gentle chiropractor  at Being in Health, Canberra and Bowral. To find out more, click here