People who practice a sport or martial art for any length of time will likely suffer from some level of sports injury at some point. Although I’m not a doctor, I’ve suffered my fair share and they tend to keep on coming as I accumulate a larger number to my age (insert “old dog” jokes here).
I think it’s important to understand the difference between an ache, which one might feel after a particularly intense workout, and pain, which can be the result of an injury. If you’re uncertain as to which you’re feeling, you just might have an injury.
Today’s modern lifestyle helps to encourage unfortunate injuries. Most people work a sedentary or desk position from Monday to Friday, then try to become weekend warriors by sliding into home base on the company softball team or laser tag! When we sit idle for long periods of time, our muscles tend to atrophy and tighten up, making it easier to get hurt once you DO engage in physical activity.
The most common injuries are sprains, which is the pulling of the elastic tendons connecting the joints and bones. But there are some common injuries that occur, such as ACL tears or strains, groin pulls, concussions, shin splints and Tennis Elbow. Those all sound pleasant, right? I’ve experienced all of those, on one level or another, EXCEPT an ACL tear.
If you wake up the following morning and your body and muscles in general just kinda seem to hurt, you’ve probably just gotten the ache of a deep workout. However, if you notice swelling, discolouration or excessive pain that feels as though lightning is shooting through the affected area, it signifies an actual injury.
According to an article on WebMD written by Matthew Hoffman, MD, mild injuries can be treated at home by following the PRICE method:
P – Protect From Further Injury: For more severe injuries, protect the injured area with splints or bandages. Obviously this would involve an open wound. Torn muscles or dislocations may simply require splinting or elastic bandaging until you can get to a doctor;
R – Restrict Activity: Stop doing what you’re doing! Continuing to work out when you have an injury will worsen or aggravate it. It’s one thing to “work through the pain”, but continuing to push yourself when you’re genuinely hurt can lead to permanent injury;
I – Apply Ice: Apply ice to the injury immediately. This will help reduce the swelling, which is common with sports injuries. Ice is considered a natural anti-inflammatory without any side effects. Health professionals recommend icing for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first two days. Contrary to some opinion, professionals don’t recommend heat as it can encourage further swelling;
C – Apply Compression: applying an elastic bandage will help to reduce swelling;
E – Elevate the Injured Area: Raising the injured appendage above the heart will also help to reduce swelling.
If you have aches and mildly pulled muscles, analgesic creams and warming blankets can help alleviate the pain. Over the counter pain killers such as Ibuprofen can also be useful in small doses, and only in the short term. Anything that persists for more than a few days should be examined by a health practitioner.
One of the best preventative measures is, of course to work out regularly. By maintaining a regular exercise regiment, you’re less likely to injure yourself. When you do work out, ensure to perform a light warm-up before starting. Once your muscles and joints are warm, they can be worked and developed with less risk of you hurting yourself.