Warm weather means many individuals find themselves more active in such outdoor pursuits as running, cycling and playing tennis. Unfortunately, sometimes that also means more injuries.
A strained muscle or sprained joint causes a lot of pain, and failure to provide immediate treatment often aggravates the condition. To relieve this pain and avoid exacerbating your injury, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends you try the R.I.C.E. treatment method: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Rest: For the duration of your injury, avoid any activity that causes your injury to hurt or swell. However, you don’t want to avoid all activity altogether. Keep yourself active by finding alternative exercises, such as swimming, using just one pedal on an exercise bike, or walking gingerly. As you heal, increase the vigor of your activities until you are back to 100 percent.
Ice: Place an ice pack on the injury as soon as possible to minimize pain and swelling. Keep the area iced for 15 to 20 minutes, and repeat this at least three times a day for the first three days after you sustain the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin; instead, wrap it in a towel. Some people find frozen peas more comfortable than ice cubes, but any frozen item suffices. If the area turns white, discontinue treatment immediately.
Compression: Compressing the injury with an elastic bandage helps reduce swelling. However, a bandage that is too tight causes other problems, such as decreased circulation, tingling, pain and swelling at the edges of the bandaged area. If you experience any of these side effects, loosen the bandage until they subside.
Elevation: Keeping the affected area above the level of your heart helps reduce swelling. By doing this, you allow gravity to drain excess fluid away from the injury. Blood pressure reduces with height – it is lower in our brain than our toes – so the higher the limb is above the heart, the less force there is within the damaged blood vessel to cause bleeding and worsen the injury. While it may not always be practical to elevate the limb, any time doing so is well spent and will aid recovery.
Of course, some more serious conditions require medical attention. There are some telltale signs that will warn you that it is time to take yourself or your young athlete to your orthopaedic surgeon:
• The inability to play following an acute or sudden injury
• Decreased ability to play because of chronic or long-term complications following an injury
• Visible deformity of the athlete’s limb or joint, or
• Severe pain.
By getting prompt treatment, you can often prevent a minor injury from turning into something more serious.
Regardless of age, our bodies need to be warmed up and our muscles stretched before engaging in sports activities to help minimize the risk of injury and optimize performance. Warming up and stretching are two separate steps to take before you engage in physical activity. They have been shown to be some of the best things your can do to protect yourself from injury.