We are sent constant messages throughout our day to day lives, and one of those messages that has increased in prevalence over the last five years is the importance of regular exercise (along with ‘eating clean’). We have always been taught about taking part in physical activity, but never has such a focus been placed on it. And we are listening – consumer spending on UK gym membership increased by 44% between 2014-2015, and there has been a steady increase in the number of adults taking part in events such as Park Run and organised cycling and open water swimming.
But with all this newly found passion and time spent exercising the risk of injuries occurring increases. Once it does, we are faced with a choice; ignore the problem and carry on exercising and playing sport or we take some time out and let our fitness levels slide a little. As I’m sure you know from experience, many of us opt to ignore the little niggles, if the pain is manageable – we pretend it isn’t there and carry on. Some expert advice? This is not advisable!
When you continue to exercise on an injury, you take the risk of making it worse. Of course, this being said, it depends on what and where the injury is, but if it’s anything to do with back or legs – its highly likely that it will worsen.
Further to making an injury worse, failing to have it examined and treated by an expert could mean that you risk causing serious damage to yourself. In some cases, this means you could be left with permanent damage – potentially this means that you have to stop your chosen form of exercise long term, even forever. When you compare the options of taking a few weeks off vs never playing again….it’s hardly a choice, is it?
Another area that is often considered when it comes to ignoring injuries is the cost. Most minor injuries that occur through physical activity can be treated through rest – the length of which is dependent on the injury and level of pain being experienced. But if the injury has been ignored for some time, expensive treatment may be required to ensure the injury heals properly.
Often, sports injuries become apparent immediately, and you are aware that you have injured yourself, but the ones that are ignored or dismissed as ‘niggles’ are the ones that can become more serious. The following six signs of injury are ones that should be addressed quickly;
Tenderness – If it causes you pain to touch or push against a specific spot such as a bone, muscle or joint then it’s advisable to seek medical attention.
Swelling – In most cases, you can see swelling as soon as it appears, in others, you can feel the swelling but see no signs of it at all, in a joint for example. Swelling can cause other elements of a joint to be pushed out of place – tendons in the knee for example.
Joint pain – Any pain that you feel in a joint lasting longer than a couple of days should be addressed, but even more so if the joint is not one that is covered by a muscle, such as the wrist, elbow or ankle – if this is the case, get it checked by a doctor.
Reduced range of motion – This ties in with swelling; if you aren’t sure if you are suffering from any significant swelling then explore your range of motion. If you are experiencing a reduced range of motion, accompanied by pain or a ‘block’ that you can feel, it’s likely that there is internal swelling.
Weakness – Comparative weakness can be difficult to identify, it’s much more subtle than reduced range of movement or swelling. You can test it by doing simple exercises, such as walking up and down some stairs to test the strength in your legs or lifting some weights and acknowledging if one side of the body is struggling compared to the other.
Numbness or Tingling – These are sensations that should never be ignored – if you can’t explain them. If you knock your funny bone or sit on your foot, the sensation has been caused by an action that you can determine. If you cannot pin point when any numbness or tingling began and if it doesn’t subside – speak to a doctor.
So what do you do about injuries?
First off, it really is as simple as not injuring yourself any more than you already have. Little niggles and twinges should not be ignored! Listen to your body, if an area hurts – don’t use it. If you believe that the injury is low level, and you aren’t experiencing any of the aforementioned problems then aim to treat the problem yourself through rest, compression, ice and elevation; these are all tools that reduce swelling by healing, causing blood vessels to contract and decreasing circulation and preventing blood from pooling respectively. Avoid applying heat to the area as this will increase circulation, promoting swelling and prohibiting healing.
If you need to resort to pain killers to manage the pain, opt for NSAID painkillers such as ibuprofen that will combat inflammation as well as relieve pain. However, having to take these for more than three days indicates the problem should examined by a doctor.
In any case, do not ignore small niggles and glimpses of pain; rest and treat at home. If the symptoms persist you must seek expert attention to ensure you do not cause any long term damage that prevents you from maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle.