What Does HARM Stand For?

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Helen Foster
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Most people who exercise regularly know that if you get an injury, you treat it using the acronym RICE (and if you don’t know about that, scan down). However, the other night I was at the launch for a new product for pain and the speaker GP Dr Roger Henderson, was also talking about another acronym HARM that anyone afflicted with a sprain, strain or pulled muscle should do as soon as they can after the injury occurs (and for the next 48 hours).

black and white photo of a woman in sports kit holding her ankle. It's coloured red to signify pain or injury

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This was a new one on me – despite the fact that I write about health every single day, I, therefore, figured I might not be alone in never having heard the acronym HARM before – and with the London Marathon looming (where Dr H told us a staggering 4,000 runners need attention because they’ve pulled something en-route) I thought it might come in handy to post it.

What Does HARM Stand For?

HARM covers all the things you shouldn’t do in the acute phase of an injury – that’s at the very least the first 48 hours – as they can increase issues like swelling and pain. That means…

The H in HARM is for Heat: That’s right at first you need to cool injuries – heat just aggravates them.

The A is for Alcohol: This dehydrates ligaments which can interfere with healing

R is for Run: Or jump up and down or go on a five-mile hike. Rest is key.

And M is for Massage. As nice as rubdown might feel it can again aggravate an acute injury. You should wait 5-7 days afterwards according to Dr Henderson.

What Does RICE Stand For?

If you saw the intro to this and thought, well I haven’t heard RICE before either, here’s what you need to know about that.

RICE stands for the things you SHOULD do after you experience a pulled muscle, sprain or strain. It stands for…

The R in RICE stands for Rest: Stop moving as soon as you can and rest the affected limb as much as you can for 24-48 hours.

The I is for Ice: Cold helps take down the swelling. You should ice the area for about 20 minutes every few hours (while you’re awake, you don’t need to do it when you’re asleep). I have a packet of peas in the freezer specifically for leg icing – the bag moulds nicely around your leg and doesn’t drip.

You can also buy freezable gel packs, or try products like those in the Medvice range which you chill and then wrap around the affected area.

Click to see what’s available here.

The C if for Compression: Compressing the area helps stop fluid collecting in the area which reduces swelling.

You can wrap a bandage around the area, or, if the injury is below the knee, my secret weapon are flight socks – the compression socks sold to wear when flying.

They’re perfect. Easy to put on, they stay in place even when you’re moving and, you can use them later!

I swear this is why, when I twanged my calf muscle so badly I could barely get home, I still didn’t end up with any bruising or swelling.

Check out the Dr Scholl ones here.

The E is for Elevation: Again, if you can elevate the area you reduce swelling and inflammation – put your leg on a cushion trying to get it so it’s higher than your hip. It’s harder to do with an arm injury, but you might want to try a sling.

What About PRICE, RICER and PRICED Injury Treatment

There’s been a few new additions to the RICE acronym in recent years – so if you’ve seen the acronym’s PRICE, RICER and PRICED in relation to sports injury treatment, here’s what the extra’s mean.

The P in PRICE stands for protection: According to the UK NHS, this means protecting the area from further injury by trying not to put weight on it, or using something like a support bandage to take presssure off it slightly.

The R in RICER stands for refer yourself. If things aren’t getting better within 48 hours then go and see a doctor or physio as you might have done more damage than you originally suspected.

The D in PRICED stands for Diagnose: Similar to the R in RICER, this is basically your instruction to seek help from a specialist if things aren’t getting better.

Why The Acronyms Matter

Because doing both of these things can help speed up how fast you recover from a simple injury like a sprain, strain or pulled muscle.

They aim to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain and prevent any further damage being done to whatever or wherever it is that you’ve hurt.

If you found this useful, you might also want to know how to reduce your risk of injury,

Have a look at our post on how to tell if you’re at risk of shin splints – and what to do about it here.

Or, if you’ve already got an injury and are worried about how you’re going to keep up your fitness, then you might like have a look at our lists of ways you can do your cardio when you’ve got a leg injury.


Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster, and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail, and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

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