Being active and exercising regularly are both essential for good health. For most people, that means participating in sporting activities. This can, at times, result in injuries. When an injury happens, it is important to know how to deal with it to ensure fast and complete recovery. The treatment protocols to be followed will depend on the nature and severity of the injury and on which part of the body has been affected. Except for minor problems like small cuts, bruises, and slight sprains, it is best to consult a sports injury doctor who will advise the right course of treatment and medication.
If the injury is slight and you are confident of what the problem is and are sure that it can be treated at home, then there are some general treatments that may be used to aid your recovery. This is known as PRICE therapy. PRICE stands for:
- Protection – Keep the injured area protected from stress or further injury.
- Rest – Avoid exercise and cut down on physical activities. If the injury is to the ankle or knee, use crutches to keep the weight off the injured limb or joint. If the injury is to the elbow or shoulder, a sling will relieve pressure on the joint. If the injury is to the back or abdomen, staying in bed for a few days will help.
- Ice – Apply an ice pack to the injured area every 3 or 4 hours. Keep the ice pack in place for about 20 minutes. If an ice pack is not available, wrap ice in a towel and only then apply it to the skin. Do not let the ice come into direct contact with the skin as this could cause ice burns.
- Compression – If possible, wrap a compression bandage around the injured area to reduce swelling. The pressure should be firm but not so much as to cause any pain or discomfort. Use compression-only during the day and remove the bandage when sleeping.
- Elevation – If possible, keep the injured part of the body elevated. This will reduce the pressure on the area and will also limit swelling.
Over-the-counter pain medications may also be used, but not for an extended period.
When to Seek Medical Help
If the injury is severe or if the PRICE treatment did not help, then a sports injury doctor should be consulted without delay. The doctor will, after conducting a thorough examination of the injury and considering other related factors, prescribe a course of treatment. This may include:
- Prescription pain medication.
- Corticosteroid injections to control inflammation.
- Immobilization of the injured area. This could include the use of splints and casts, using a wheelchair, bed rest, and so on. The doctor will monitor your progress and start gentle exercises as soon as possible to regain flexibility.
- Physiotherapy is often the most helpful method when it comes to treating sports injuries. This may include massage, manipulation of the injured part of the body, supervised exercise, etc. Such activities must only be done as advised by a professional physiotherapist. Massages and other home remedies from well-meaning family members and friends may do more harm than good.
- Diet modification and the use of vitamin supplements to help the body’s own healing mechanism function more efficiently.
- If the injury is such that non-invasive treatment will not help, then surgery will probably be required. Although this is often a cause of concern for some patients, it must be remembered that the sports injury doctor’s aim is to ensure the best possible recovery for the patient and that surgery will be advised only if that is the right option.
The key to recovering from a sports injury is to use common sense, to know when to consult a doctor, and then to follow the doctor’s advice.