Home Treatments 101: An Athletic Trainer's Guide
You know that saying — you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
Well, please understand this one point. You can treat symptoms of injuries over and over but until you address the cause of the injury, you still have the injury. Complete healing happens when you address the root cause.
I have spent a lot of time treating traumatic injuries (you know the ones that make the strongest stomachs turn).
I have spent even more time treating the nagging injuries. Those are an athletic trainer’s bread and butter. So, here are some tried and true treatments and advice I have seen make a difference.
NSAIDS – (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – Advil, Aleve or aspirin) These will limit inflammation in the body and will decrease pain. The trick is to follow dosing instructions religiously. If you are to take one Aleve every twelve hours, take one every twelve hours, don’t miss. Your body has to start over when you miss a dose. I usually recommend doing this for two weeks and noting any improvement. If the pain returns, see a doctor.
RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Rest the area as needed (over night, decrease workout intensity, weight, etc.). Apply ice after activity for 15-20 minutes every 2 hours. Add a compression wrap if swelling is visible. Elevate area above heart level to allow for easier circulation and lymphatic flow.
Decrease intensity as needed. This is vague, but decrease your activity level. This does not mean stopping completely. Maybe cross train. Instead of pounding the pavement, run in a pool. Go to a spin class instead of pounding your knees to avoid shin splints. Decrease mileage, decrease days exercising or decrease work load. Allow your body to heal and recover. Make sure to take days off. It’s good for you.
Know mechanics. Proper golf swing, tennis serve, foot strike and stride length go a long way in preventing nagging injury. If you are unsure, seek the help of a professional. At Gwinnett Medical Center we have a physical therapist who is a running mechanics expert. Seek a golf pro at your club or tennis pro. Do some research on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek assessments to stay well.
Flexibility training. Make sure you stretch after you are warm. Lengthen muscles in order to increase strength and range of motion. This helps keep muscles working properly and curtails some stiffness and aches.
Strength training. Muscles must be strong. Make sure you work whole areas. If you only work hamstrings and quadriceps in the upper leg, you will have weak butt muscles as well as weakness in the muscles that rotate the thigh. Work all muscles equally.
Don’t do too much too soon. Remember to progress your workouts. Novice exercisers who don’t have a good strength base shouldn’t jump into 220-pound deadlifts or intense crossfit classes. Take things slowly. What you do today is better than what you did yesterday. Slow and steady helps keep injury risk low.
Know your injury. Research your pain or injury. It is my opinion that the majority of overuse injuries are because the body is weak at some point in the kinetic chain. The body works as a unit (think of muscles as links in a chain) and when it weakens due to fatigue or muscle failure, you receive an injury. For example, sometimes knee pain is a result of the knee tendons, ligaments and muscles being overworked because of weak core muscles. The core is made up of the hip muscles, butt, low back and ab muscles. Or the shoulder rotator cuff is stressed because it is working to stabilize the arm instead of the middle and lower trapezius muscles doing their job. To determine if your injury stems from weak muscle groups, talk with your doctor and ask for physical therapy or certified athletic trainer referral. We work to determine root causes of injury and can assess the strength balances of muscle groups.
Equipment is important. If you are a runner, shoes are important. Seek a shoe store that assesses your gait and makes recommendations on which shoes are best for your running gait. Make sure your racquet grip is the correct size. Use orthotics as recommended by doctors. Proper equipment — not the most expensive equipment — is a good way to prevent injury.
Finally – REST. Have a rest day or couple of days. Make sure you eat well, hydrate and recover. Stay tuned for future posts on pre-exercise and post-exercise nutrition.
Well, that’s your crash course, people. It’s a lot of material (see the textbook comment in previous blog post), but valuable.
Stay on course, take care of yourself, see a doctor if you are concerned or don’t see improvement in an injury within two weeks.
Stay healthy my friends.
How GMC Can Help
We know that even the smallest injury can hamper your performance and the enjoyment of your favorite sport. That's why our mission is simple: To help ALL athletes prevent injury, heal, manage pain and get off the sidelines sooner.
Whether you want to prevent an injury or recover from one, Gwinnett Medical Center's sports medicine program can help get you back to doing the things you love.
Starkey, C., Brown, S. D., & Ryan, J. (2009). Examination of orthopedic and athletic injuries. FA Davis