It is no secret that exercise is one of the leading factors which contribute to an overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, it is also one of the leading causes of injury, resulting in over 400,000 trips to A&E annually (HSCIC, 2012). When an injury occurs, not only does it cause an abrupt halt to your training repertoire, but can affect all aspects of your daily life. If not rehabbed effectively, these injuries can persist for weeks, months or even years! When it comes to treating an injury regardless of whether it is a sprain, strain or fracture, these 6 tips will help you get back on the road to recovery.
1. P.R.I.C.E (protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation)
Although the idea of protecting and resting an injury is somewhat simplistic, during the early stages of injury it is often the most effective method. The application of ice to the injured area is an effective way of reducing the swelling to the area and allowing the healing process to occur. Compression bandages and keeping the injured structure elevated when possible are also proven methods of reducing swelling which not only stimulates the healing process, but reduces pain to the area. N.B – To avoid the risk of ice burns, application of ice should be limited to 20 minutes and never applied directly to the skin.
2. Use of painkillers & NSAIDs (sparingly)
The use of over the counter medicines to reduce pain and inflammation is no secret, however the long term effects are not as well known to the general public. Several studies have shown that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and diclofenac have actually slowed the total recovery time of an injury, not to mention the gastro-intestinal complications associated with long term use. For this reason, it is advised that medication should not be consumed for any longer than 7-10 days unless instructed by a doctor.
3. Gradual progression
One of the main reasons for prolonged and recurring injuries is returning to exercise too early and attempting too much too soon. As part of your rehabilitation, exercise should be introduced to your daily regime gradually. I cannot stress enough that “No pain, No gain” does not apply here!
4. Stay positive
The importance of staying psychologically positive during rehabilitation is a vital part of overcoming injury. Although attempting to overcome injury can be a stressful time, especially if you have an upcoming event, it is important not to get discouraged. For example, if you are still not fully fit after 2 weeks following an injury, try reflecting on how much you have improved within those 2 weeks and where you could be in the next 2 weeks rather than dwelling on the actual injury.
5. Prevention is better than a cure
Although some injuries are unavoidable, particularly when partaking in contact sports such as rugby or football, many injuries occur due to poor muscular conditioning. This means that if a specific muscle group is somewhat weaker in relation to the rest of the body, or has a limited flexibility when stretched, it is likely that the vulnerability of those muscles will result in an injury at some point. It is therefore important to partake in appropriate warm up and cool down routines prior/post exercise as well as supporting a whole body approach to training when possible.
6. See a professional
If your car broke down you would take it to a mechanic, so why should your body be any different? A qualified Physiotherapist/Sports Rehabilitator are trained to diagnose exactly what is wrong and how to fix it safely and effectively. As well as using hands on treatment approaches to relieve pain and stimulate the healing process, they can also prescribe you with a rehab programme, consisting of a series of specified exercises and movements designed to strengthen the injured area. If done correctly, not only does this assist your injury progression, but minimises the risk of reoccurrences.