If you enjoy sports, injuring yourself at some time or another goes with the territory. Here are some tips on how you can make life easier for yourself when that happens.
Heat and Chronic Sports Injuries
Using heat therapy with a wheat bag over sore or tight muscles and joints before exercise helps increase blood circulation and brings additional nutrients and oxygen to the affected area, thereby increasing the elasticity of joint connective tissue. Heat is also good for relaxing muscle spasms. If you have a tender or tight spot, apply heat for 15 minutes before exercise, using a layer between your skin and heat pad to prevent burns.
Note: Heat is generally used for chronic injuries or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling.
Cold and Acute Sport Injuries
The initial treatment for most acute soft tissue injuries e.g. bruises or strains is to prevent and reduce the swelling which causes pain and limits muscle use. To reduce swelling, immediately apply ice to the injury with a bag of frozen vegetables or a frozen wheat bag used as a cold compress. To prevent frostbite, let the area warm completely before repeating.
Note: Don’t apply heat to either acute injuries or injuries which seem inflamed as heat increases circulation and raises skin temperature. Apply ice from the beginning to acute injuries. Once healing has begun heat may be helpful to ease muscle tension.
Treatment Tips for Sports Injuries
Stop exercising: The first sign of any sports injury is usually sudden pain. Stop activity immediately and rest the injured part.
Compression: Use elastic compression bandages to limit swelling and prevent blood and fluid from entering the injured area.
Elevation: Keep the injured leg, knee, arm, elbow or wrist raised above the level of the heart. This may also help to reduce swelling.
Immobilize the injured area: You may need to prevent the affected area from moving too much. Once you have initiated the treatment process and during times when you are not elevating the area, use a sling, splint or immobilizer to prevent further injury.
Painkillers: Pain is the primary symptom for sports injuries due to the swelling and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications work by reducing the inflammation that occurs and reduces the discomfort.
Starting to move again: Once healing begins, gentle stretching may reduce adhesions and scar tissue formation and improve muscle function. After an injury, it is essential for joints to return to proper alignment, therefore slowly increasing the range of motion in the injured joint or muscle is a positive action. It is also a good idea to include exercises that target joint stability. Finally, after the injury has healed, strengthening exercises can be begun.
Sports massage: Massage can be an effective method of speeding up recovery as it encourages the flow of blood into the affected area and the blood nutrients help repair any damaged tissue. It can increase flexibility in the affected body part. Note: Not recommended if you have a soft-tissue injury e.g. torn ligament.
Physiotherapy: This involves using massage, manipulation and special exercises to improve the range of motion and return the function of injured area to normal.