Bent out of shape from getting in shape?
Been exercising recently? Good for you! Being active has numerous benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain cancers, maintaining weight, preventing or delaying chronic diseases, and improving mood.
Yet, exercise is not without its risks. You may be on a fantastic, active roll when suddenly —ouch! You sprain, strain, or break something, and suddenly that roll is over.
Sports injuries like this can happen to anyone, even the not-so-athletic. Actually, inexperienced people may need to use more caution if they haven’t grasped proper techniques in their sport yet.
Whether you’re new or experienced in athletic activities, fear not! There are many ways to prevent and treat sports injuries.
What are sports injuries?
Sports injuries are injuries sustained while doing a physical activity. The two main types of sports injuries are acute and chronic injuries. Acute injuries happen suddenly and will likely go away once healed; this includes sprains, strains, and broken bones. Chronic injuries happen when you do an activity for a longer time. For example, a long-distance jogger who has flat feet or improper footwear can develop plantar fasciitis.
Preventing sports injuries
Sports injuries are often caused by factors you can control. People who get sports injuries can get them by doing the following:
- Taking inappropriate risks and getting into accidents
- Using inappropriate or low-quality equipment
- Forgetting to warm up and stretch before physical activity
- Exercising without proper training techniques*
- Being unfit and pushing themselves too hard
*Note: this may happen to enthusiasts training by themselves without the direction of a professional.
Some tips to help you prevent sports injuries include the following:
- Know your limits. By all means, challenge and push yourself, but do not push yourself so drastically that you end up injured. Challenge your body gradually, not suddenly.
- Don’t squeeze a week’s worth of exercise into one weekend. Spread physical activity out throughout the week.
- Learn a new sport from a qualified professional, at least when you first learn how to do it. This will allow you to avoid improper technique and subsequent injury.
- Remember to wear safety gear. This includes helmets, knee pads, and whatever specialized equipment your activity requires.
- Run on flat surfaces, and wear proper footwear. Make sure your shoes actually fit!
- Always warm up before playing sports.
Treating sports injuries
Sports injuries aren’t uncommon. For many mild injuries, home remedies like R.I.C.E. and other accessible treatments will work.
When treating mild injuries at home, remember the following acronym:
- R = Rest. Give your injured body part a break.
- I = Ice. Apply a cold compress to your injury for 20 minutes four to eight times a day.
- C = Compression. Put pressure on the injured area. This will reduce swelling.
- E = Elevation. Keep your injured body part at a level that is above your heart.
A class of pharmaceuticals called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can treat pain, swelling, and inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen and aspirin. You can also get prescription NSAIDs like naproxen at an affordable price from an online international or Canadian pharmacy service that connects you to licensed pharmacies outside the United States.
Other treatment options
If medication and R.I.C.E. doesn’t work, you have plenty of other options, including:
- Resting your injury more
- Doing rehabilitation exercises — this may require help from a physiotherapist
- Going for massage therapy
- Undergoing surgery*
*Note: In rare cases, if your injury is serious, you may require surgical assistance.
If your injury is a serious impediment or if it’s not healing, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Gentle exercises for sports injuries
If you have a sports injury or are in pain, talk to your doctor first before continuing with physical activity. You don’t want your injury to get worse.
If you have an acute sports injury, your doctor may recommend the following:
- Doing physical rehabilitation exercises with a trained physiotherapist, such as gentle stretching or strength training
- Decreasing the intensity of your workout
- Remembering to warm up and cool down with a gentle exercise like walking
- Concentrating on another part of your body that isn’t injured, such as doing leg exercises if your shoulder hurts
If you suffer from chronic pain, exercise might actually help your symptoms. Exercise that aims to improve balance, endurance, flexibility, and strength can be combined to help muscles support joints, reduce inflammation, and relieve joint stiffness. Again, discuss with your doctor what exercises are safe for your condition.