We have all suffered from minor accidents, resulting in joint sprains, muscle strains or bruises, from time to time. These may have been from accidentally tripping on the cat/dog, or missing a step or tripping on uneven ground. We can never fully avoid these but what we can do is minimise the recovery time.
Here are a few tips to help yourself:
It is very important to keep moving even after an injury, but do so with caution. Movement will encourage flushing of damaged cells from the site, reduce stiffness, decrease pain and maintain muscle strength and function.
There is a common misunderstanding about inflammation. People often tend to think that the swollen looking limb is ‘bad news’ and want to do everything possible to stop it from happening and so will take anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and aspirin to stop this. In truth, inflammation is the body’s natural response to harmful stimuli and so helps wounds to heal. This is good news! Your body is healing itself; it just needs patience and tolerance to be able to do its job properly. It may be better to take paracetamol according to its dosage and guidance. However, those with liver or kidney disorders should avoid this, and if in doubt speak to your pharmacist for possible reactions of paracetamol with your other on going medications.
If the area is a limb, it can be useful to lift the area above heart level even for a few minutes a time or prop it with pillows. This helps to remove the damaged cells from the injured site back into the lymphatic system where it is eliminated from the body through various processes.
This is another important reason why movement is important. Movement means our muscles move, when our muscles move they act as a pump to help return waste products back toward the heart through the circulatory and lymphatic system.
Reoccurring Hamstring Strain in Rugby Player
A 28 year old gentleman, playing at senior level at one of the local rugby clubs, presented with a hamstring injury following a training session in mid winter. On further questioning, it seems that this happened at least once or twice every season for the last 8 years. Often this has resolved with some physiotherapy and rest. This time the injury has not settled and was increasingly getting worse.
After an initial assessment, a treatment plan was developed which included intensive physiotherapy and rest and some home based hydrotherapy. He missed the rest of that season while he recovered. After full recovery and following further assessments it was found that he also had relatively poor core strength and hip flexors. By adding Pilates (to strengthen the core musculature) and more targeted exercises for his hip flexors to his training program in preparation for the following season.
To date he has not had a recurrence of the hamstring injury (4 seasons and counting) and he feels that he has become stronger and playing with a lot more confidence as he’s not worried about injuring himself.
Understandably, there can be a considerable about of pain and so it may be asking too much asking patients to be patient and tolerate pain whilst the body heals when they have things to get on with. It can be useful to try some of the following.
Wheat bags or heat packs (both microwaveable) purchased from local pharmacy or supermarket;
Warm damp tea towel;
Hot water bottle (NOT boiling water from the kettle unless you have a decent bag to cover the bag in after);
Water bowl, shower or immerse in bath tub (sea salt, magnesium salt or oil spray can help provide ease to muscles).
Bag of frozen veg/peas (anything small enough to get around nooks and crannies to fully cover the affected surface area;
Cold damp tea towel;
Cold showers (if you can brave it for a few minutes or even just on the area);
Water bowl (to keep it cold, place a few ice cubes in).
The general consensus is 10 minutes of each and ending on the cold. It is important to ensure your modalities are not too hot or too cold to avoid skin irritation and burns. Research indicates that for benefits to occur from use of hydrotherapy cold should be maintained at 13°C for 10 minutes and warm should be between 40°C and 43°C .Of course most of us don’t have time to get out our thermometers and test out every single parameter. However a general rule of thumb is to ensure that your modality feels ‘therapeutic’. Therefore, comfortable enough to keep on the skin for that period of time although, you may have to brave it for the cold as most people struggle with this one.
Seek medical advice if you have any existing medical conditions such as:
- Have a history of heart disease or deep vein thrombosis
Take caution if:
- You are pregnant
- You suffer from Raynaud’s disease
- You have been diagnosed inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, or vasculitis
If you have had a fall and are elderly, been diagnosed with osteoporosis in the past, have a history of long term steroid treatment for illness then it is advised you should seek medical attention in case of possible fractures. Also, if your fall was from a considerably height, high impact or fell awkwardly in such a way that you suspect fracture or dislocation seek medical advice. If you have any open wounds, take care to keep it clean and dry or seek medical attention depending on its depth and severity.
If your pain persists over weeks, progresses or changes in symptoms such as, pins and needles, weakness and loss of muscle power, changes to bladder or bowel function, confusion, dizziness, vomiting – please go to your GP as soon as possible.