It’s great to push forward and hit the next skill level during your workout or game. However, if something begins to hurt, stop! Most sports injuries start with pain; the warning sign that something is wrong and requires attention, whether that’s as simple as an ice pack or requires a professional’s assessment. Acute injuries come on quickly, are unmistakably dramatic, and can be accompanied by inflammation, tenderness, pain and redness/heat. Chronic injuries develop over time and generally begin as a minor ache or pain, but over time, could result in a build up of scar tissue and a diminished range of motion. If you ignore either type, you could be off your game for a considerable amount of time while you recover so it’s best to attend to them as soon as possible. Before undertaking a new type of sport or activity in the gym, consult with a professional so you learn, right from the get-go, how to do it right. Lifting weights, for example, if done wrong, can result in back injuries. So don’t simply watch the next guy over; talk with one of the trainers in the gym who are trained on how to safely use the equipment and can pass this knowledge on to you. There are many different ways to look after a sports injury at home unless a professional has deemed it necessary for you to work with a physical therapist. And every injury will require a different recovery time, depending on the severity and location. To read about sports injuries you’re likely to encounter, how to look after yourself if you’ve succumbed, and how to avoid them altogether, read on.
SPORTS INJURIES CAN BE A PAIN IN THE….
No matter what sport you play or exercise you do, there just seems to be certain parts of the body that end up causing you pain. For example, your legs (including your knees, ankles and feet) are what propel you in all directions, so it just makes sense that when common injuries occur, they occur most frequently in the knees, ankles, calves and shins.
Shin Splints, a common term used to describe pain associated with the shin area, cause pain on the inside of the shin bone (tibia) half way up the shin. The most common cause of shin splints is inflammation of the sheath surrounding the shin bone due to biomechanical errors in training. Simply put, when the muscles of the lower leg exert force on the sheath, either from incorrect movement or over-exertion, inflammation occurs. An example of incorrect movement includes not standing squarely and firmly on your feet (letting them roll to either the inside or outside). An example of over-exertion includes going from no exercise to exercising every day for an hour without lead-in time to prepare your body for the rigors of exercise again.
Leg Cramps happen involuntarily and quite suddenly, possibly due to dehydration while training, low potassium or sodium levels in your body, low carbohydrate levels, low glycogen levels in the liver or very tight muscles from over-training. If severe enough, a cramp can actually tear a muscle. In this case, full rehabilitation of the muscle needs to happen before you begin training again. Make sure you’re drinking water while you train, getting enough potassium in your diet (bananas, lima beans, brown rice, nuts, potatoes, spinach, yams) and that you’re taking in enough natural sugars (like the glucose and fructose in honey) so that they are converted to glycogen and stored in the liver for the next time you ask your muscles to last through a training session. Make sure you give your muscles time to recover from training; this is where cross-training comes in handy. Work one set of muscles one day and another set on the next day, alternating to give your muscles time to heal and reset.
Knee Injuries are particularly common because of all the “moving parts” in your knee (ligaments, tendons, bursa) and because your knee takes the majority of the abuse when you jog, play racquetball, do squats or ride a bike.
Having said that, most parts of your knee are not supposed to move more than just a little and when they do, injuries occur. Ligaments in your knee can be torn or aggravated by twisting too far one way or another, or via impact during contact sports. If your ligaments are weak and don’t hold your kneecap securely in place, pain and inflammation can occur. The bursa in your knee (a small sack of fluid which lubricates the joint) can become inflamed (bursitis) from pressure on the knee (for example, when kneeling) for too long. The tendon below the knee cap can become inflamed from overuse (called “jumper’s knee”).
Your Ankles are another part of your leg that, like your knee, twist and turn from side to side and back to front. Twist them too far and you’ve got a sprained ankle. A sprained, or twisted, ankle is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments and can range from minor to severe. A sprain usually happens quickly, generally as a result of “going over” on your ankle due to poor ankle support, a fall, or poor foot positioning. The most common damage sustained in a sprained ankle is to the ligament that connects the ankle bone with the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg (fibula). Bruising, swelling, heat and pain will occur on the site of the injury and should be attended to by a physician as soon as possible. Sprains are graded 1, 2 or 3, with 3 being the worst. Treatment can include R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation) or, depending on the grade of injury, rehabilitation with a physiotherapist once the injury has healed somewhat.
Chronic pain and injury refers to the sort of physical injury that develops slowly and is persistent and long-lasting, or constantly recurring over time. Many chronic injuries have mild symptoms and low-grade pain, and are often ignored or simply overlooked for months or even years. Ignoring such mild aches and pains can lead to a persistent chronic injury that is difficult to heal. Chronic injuries are sometimes referred to as cumulative trauma or overuse injuries. Overuse injuries tend to have subtle or vague symptoms that develop slowly. They begin as a small, nagging ache or pain, and can grow into a debilitating injury if they aren’t treated early. Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive use, stress and trauma to the soft tissues of the body (muscles, tendons, bones and joints) without proper time for healing. They are sometimes called cumulative trauma, or repetitive stress injuries. Examples include tendonitis and tennis elbow. 1
In summary, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you when it sends you signals disguised as pain. The old adage, “no pain, no gain” is absolutely wrong and should be ignored at all costs. Pain is the only language your body has to alert you to the fact that something is wrong, needs looking after, or that you should change a behavior.
HOW TO AVOID PAIN AND INJURY
You can avoid pain and injury by ensuring that you:
- Are properly trained before undertaking any new sport or physical activity. Ask a professional for a few lessons or for advice on how to use equipment that is new to you before you even touch it.
- Make sure you have the proper footwear, weight belts, gloves, head gear or anything you need to perform the movements or sport safely and effectively.
- Don’t overdo it on your first time out. Take on new sports and exercises slowly and build up your muscles gently.
- Feed your body appropriately for the type of exercise or sport you’re taking on. You’ll likely need to increase the amount of protein you are consuming (make sure it’s lean, healthy protein) and the amount of whole grain carbohydrates and natural glucose/fructose from fruits and veggies you get from your meals.
- Get plenty of rest between exercise periods. Your body needs to rest and repair itself so that it’s ready for your next workout session.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT HELP SPEED RECOVERY
Vitamin C is necessary to make collagen, the “glue” that strengthens connective tissue. A deficiency can delay healing. It is also thought to be able to aid in healing fractures.
Vitamin E reduces blood levels of free radicals which can prevent muscle damage from healing.
Bioflavonoids can reduce the amounts of free radicals circulating in your system and have anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids such as quercetin can aid in reducing the effects of nerve damage.
Magnesium helps decrease swelling. When levels of magnesium are low, amounts of inflammatory cytokines and histamine tend to rise.
Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some needed to repair wounds.
Glucosamine sulphate appears to speed the healing of damage to the cartilage around the kneecap.
Probiotics can help to build lean muscle tissue, aid detoxification and boost immunity (for any nasty germs you might pick up at the gym).
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
Natural Factors C Extra 500 mg Plus 250 Bioflavonoids – In addition to vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant and infection-fighting properties, this product contains added bioflavonoids. These plant components are known to improve circulation, memory, and varicose veins, and to reduce high blood pressure and risk of stroke. Vitamin C is necessary for maintaining all collagen structures and promoting wound repair. Bioflavonoids enhance the activity of vitamin C and may improve the body’s ability to hold and absorb vitamin C by 35%.
Natural Factors Calcium & Magnesium Plus Potassium & Zinc – Calcium is required for cardiac function, to build strong bones, and to maintain bone density and strength. Calcium helps regulate muscle contraction as well. Magnesium is important to bone formation, nerve and muscle transmission, and energy production.
1. What Is Chronic Pain and Injury?
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
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