You’ve just hurt yourself… What now?
You’ve woken up Sunday morning and your neck hurts. Like really hurts! You can hardly look over your shoulder. The kids are screaming for breakfast and you have a full day of gardening planned.
You’re at the gym, you’ve just finished your second round of a heavy squat set and you notice a cramping sensation through your lower back. You only have one more set to go, you push through but wind up limping out of the gym.
Most of us have experienced a similar scenario, acute injury or pain is often accompanied by worry, fear and immediate disability. It’s annoying, it’s complicated your day and it can often feel like you are 2 steps forward and 1 step backwards if there has been a prior injury.
The first thing to remind yourself, is you are not to blame. Injuries HAPPEN, we cannot avoid them forever, and it does not mean you are starting from scratch in your recovery. The way you manage things early on can have a big impact on your pain levels and return to activity. If you can’t make it down to Premier for treatment, here are 5 things you can do in the next 24hrs.
It should be noted that this list does not apply if you suspect serious injury such as fracture, muscle or ligament tears or open wounds. If you are unsure, seek medical advice.
From my experience most injuries love warmth. Use a heat bag or hot water
bottle wrapped in a hand towel over the area. Ensure it does not burn the skin.
If there is swelling or bruising in the area, ice may feel better to reduce the uncomfortable feeling. Again, avoid direct contact with an ice pack and the skin.
Evidence suggests that both heat and ice are effective for pain relief -it’s about personal preference and what feels best for you.
Apply to the area for 20 min, break for 20 min, and repeat.
AVOID AGGRAVATING ACTIVITIES
Sometimes we need to gently push through pain, but often for acute injuries it is best to avoid intense or aggravating movements for the next 24-48hrs. If you’ve hurt yourself and are unable to walk properly- don’t go for a jog! There is a way to ease back into movement guided by a healthcare practitioner.
Using over the counter pain relief is very useful in the early stages of injury.
Especially if you have tasks you need to complete (like caring for kids)
or getting a good night’s sleep.
Anti-inflammatory medication can also be helpful if you are able to take it.
GENTLE AND REGULAR MOVEMENT
Start to gently move the affected body part as soon as you can within pain free limits. This may only feel like a small amount, but encouraging this movement is what will help you return to activity sooner and reduce pain. Besides a select few, most injuries will feel better with movement, which is also your reminder not to sit on the couch feeling sorry for yourself all day! Gentle and regular movement is key.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE
While your body deals with the acute tissue damage or inflammation, make sure you are giving it the best chance. Avoid alcohol, highly processed foods and excessive sugars for the week. These are known to contribute to general inflammation within the body. Ensure you are getting approximately 8hrs of restful sleep every night as this is when your body does its most effective healing and pain regulation. Continue to go about your day with modifications that make you feel more comfortable. The sooner you start doing the things you love, the sooner they will feel normal.
If an injury is having a big impact on your ability to get through general day to day activities such as caring for yourself or others, you may want to think about seeking treatment sooner. If you feel your injury has not improved or worsened, or has hung around longer than expected (2-3 days), seek treatment.
As always, any questions or concerns about a recent injury, reach out to your healthcare practitioner, or via my email address firstname.lastname@example.org.