Seeing a doctor for all your sports related injuries may provide you peace of mind and assured results, but you don't have to schedule an appointment for every ache or pain. There are a number of home-based remedies you can try before seeking out a specialist. Not only will these remedies save you the hassle of a doctor's visit, they'll also save you money! Before picking up the phone to schedule an appointment, try these treatments:
Ice it down
R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is a well-known acronym for musculoskeletal pain relief, especially after a sports injury. If you twist an ankle during basketball or wrench your shoulder while playing tennis, apply ice and follow up with rest until your soreness eases. However, the timing of ice application is important. Take it easy when you're icing your muscles and avoid returning to play within 20 minutes of ice application. Studies have shown that while ice relieves soreness by reducing inflammation, it also reduces muscle strength and power which can have a negative effect on performance.
Pop a pill
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs, are some of the most common pain relievers available. They include over-the-counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, but they are also available in prescription strength. NSAIDS not only relieve pain, but they reduce inflammation, lower fevers and prevent blood clotting. Since reducing inflammation is an important step in treating musculoskeletal pain, NSAIDS are the most considered option of treatment for muscle aches and pain.
Slather on the salves
Topical analgesics such as ointments, creams, lotions or gels that are rubbed directly into the skin at the site of pain may also ease discomfort from a sports related injury. Products like Icy Hot and Capsaicin works as counter irritants, stimulating the nerve endings of the skin to distract the brain from the real source of pain. Other analgesics, like BenGay and Aspercreme, work more like aspirin, interfering with chemical transmissions in the body that result in pain signals.
Apply some pressure
Sometimes pain and soreness after activity has more to do with muscle tightness than it does with tendon, ligament or muscle damage. If you find yourself sidelined because your back seized up or you experienced a sudden muscle spasm, start your treatment with stretching and a little pressure point therapy. It's usually pretty easy to identify the knots that are causing so much pain, so perform a few stretches that target the surrounding muscle groups, then massage the knot using your hand, a baseball or a piece of equipment designed for this type of at-home therapy. You may still need to seek out a massage therapist, chiropractor or doctor if home-based massage doesn't work, but you may be surprised how much it can help.
Learn how to perform self-massage with a foam roller >>
When to seek professional treatment
At-home remedies may be excellent for minor musculoskeletal pain, but it's imperative that you seek out help if your ability to function becomes affected. If your injury reduces your range of motion or causes excruciating pain, hindering your ability to perform daily tasks, go ahead and call the doctor. You never know - what felt like a minor injury may actually be something more.
Just don't forget - Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! In order to reduce sports related injuries, remember to stretch and strengthen your muscles. You may be more susceptible to sports related injury if you are deconditioned for the activities you're performing. Strength training can better prepare your muscles to deal with aches, strain and pains, and it can help provide more support to joints like the elbows and knees, helping prevent injury. Moreover, stretching exercises will keep your muscles flexible, reducing muscle tension and soreness.
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