How to avoid strains and sprains
New Zealanders are a pretty active bunch and participate in many sporting and recreational activities. But, we have a lot of injuries too that can cost a huge amount – in pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income, medical costs, etc. So it makes good economic and medical sense, first, to prevent sprains, strains and other soft tissue injuries and, second, to treat them as soon as they happen and manage them for as long as intervention is necessary.
‘‘Soft tissue injuries usually are due to muscles, ligaments and cartilage (that ‘blanket’ and protect bone) being bruised, stretched or broken, ‘‘ say Self Care Pharmacists who see athletes competing at the highest level, as well as seeing many people involved in sports just socially, being injured and sidelined from activities.’’ Ways to avoid injury include: Strapping with sports tape the areas prone to injury
Doing warm-up, and warm-down, exercises
Gradually building up muscle strength through training – no sudden launching into vigorous exercise at the first instance
Eating more foods high in carbohydrate during heavy training
STOPPING the activity if stiff or in pain during the activity
Being relaxed before any activity – being tense will make muscles and tendons tight and increase their risk of injury during activity.
‘‘However, if you do injure yourself there are simple first aid management practices you can instigate immediately to prevent further injury, and other practices that will speed recovery, ‘‘ say Self Care Pharmacists.
‘‘We can advise you about these techniques, and provide suitable strapping products and pain relief medicines.’’
After injury, stop the activity to protect the damaged area. Self Care pharmacists advise people to immediately carry out the RICE method, and continue for the next 48 hours. By Resting the area, applying Ice (for 20 minutes maximum at a time) to control pain, alternating with gentle Compression to the area to reduce bleeding and swelling, and Elevating the injured limb also to reduce swelling, the affected area has a much better chance of avoiding further damage and recovering quickly.
Repeat the ice and alternating compression treatment every few hours for the first 48 hours. However, within the first 24 hours after RICE is initiated, the area can be moved gently.
‘‘In addition to the RICE information, people are advised to avoid HARMful factors – Heat (including hot water bottles), Alcohol, Running and Massage – for the first 72 hours after injury.’’
Pharmacists also can advise if the initial injury needs to be referred to doctors for X-rays and follow-up, or can be managed by the people themselves.
Talk to your Self Care pharmacist about anti-inflammatory medicine to take or to apply to the injured area. They can guide you and advise on how much to take and when, for your specific injury.
Prevention is, however, the best management so check out the site www.sportsmart.org.nz for all the relevant information on injury prevention. Prepared by Pharmacy Self Care, Pharmaceutical Society of NZ Inc, Grand Arcade Tower, level 10, 16-20 Willis St, Wellington 6142.