Nice swelling, nasty swelling

We all know the feeling… toppling over on the ankle and then slowly feeling your shoe tighten. What’s going on? Where’s all that swelling coming from? Why does your body decide to swell when it feels so nasty?

Nice swelling

Swelling is an important part of your body’s response to injury. When your nerves detect some distress in an area (say, damage to your ankle ligament), one of the strategies it uses to protect you is to tell the body to send its healing cells to the area, along with a soup of molecules. The healing cells process the damaged tissues, deciding which parts need to be taken away and discarded and which parts are suitable for repair. This is great because without this process, your ligament would stay damaged and you’d never get back to what you need to do.

Nasty swelling

So swelling is a pretty handy healing mechanism. You’d struggle without it. But at times, some aspects of swelling can be unhelpful. This is particularly the case if the body overdoes the swelling response and all the extra cells and molecules in the area cause the part to become unnecessarily stiff and sore. At other times, the body forgets to switch off the swelling response and inflammation hangs around for longer than is really required, making you sorer than you have to be.


The best way to determine whether swelling is nice or nasty is to have a comprehensive assessment of your injury. Your physio is trained to do this and to give you the best advice on how to let swelling do its job without allowing the body part to get too stiff and stuck. Depending on your injury, this might involve rest, ice, compression, elevation, crutches, gentle exercises or a whole range of other techniques. Once you know how to work with the swelling, you can help it to do its job of repairing your tissues. That way you can get moving again… and get that shoe to fit around your ankle like it used to!

If you have any queries about your injury or want to know more about how to respond as soon as it happens, call us on (08) 9364 4073 or book online.