Summer is here in Raleigh! After the frosty winter and the rainy spring, everyone is finally ready to get out into the sunshine and have some fun in the Great Outdoors. North Carolina is a great place to live if you like outdoor activities, as there’s easy access to so many different things to do: swimming and water sports in pools, lakes, or the ocean; team field sports like soccer, baseball, football, and volleyball; hiking in the mountains, the greenways, or near the coast; and so many places to go rock climbing, cycling, or just being active with friends and family.
That being said, outside activity and sports can lead to minor or major injuries. These injuries are particularly frustrating not only in being painful, but they can keep you from getting to do anything fun outside at all. We’ve discussed how to spot the signs and symptoms of heat illness in our Raleigh primary care blog already, but outside of heat, sun, and humidity, there are a lot of ways that you could potentially hurt yourself. Here are the symptoms of common sports injuries, how to home treat them, and how to prevent them.
A sprain typically occurs in joints, such as wrists, ankles, and knees. The joint ligaments are wrenched or twisted violently in a way that causes pain and swelling but doesn’t result in dislocation.
While the symptoms of a sprain can vary between injury locations, all sprains tend to have swelling, pain, and stiffness in the affected joint. There might also be bruising, tenderness, and skin discoloration, and an inability to use or put weight on the affected joint.
Sprain At-Home Treatment
Common at-home treatment for a sprain is RICE therapy, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.
- Rest the affected area with a sling, brace, crutches, or taping, depending on the location of the injury.
- Ice the injury for 20 minutes every hour (don’t apply ice directly to the skin).
- Compress the sprain with an Ace bandage, sleeve, or brace lightly.
- Elevate the injury to above the level of the heart (if possible).
You can also use over the counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help manage the inflammation and pain.
You should see your Raleigh primary care doctor when you think you have a sprain to ensure that the injury isn’t worse than it appears. Contact your doctor or seek immediate medical care if the pain or swelling gets worse.
Preventing a Sprain
Preventing a sprain requires being generally healthy and careful, and knowing your own limits. If you start to feel pain or too tired during your activities, stop and rest. Eat healthily, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and ensure that you warm up and stretch every time. Always wear protective gear if you’re playing team sports, and wear well-fitting shoes.
A joint dislocation is when a bone slips out of the joint, and can occur in any joint, such as shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, or ankles. This can cause damage to the nerves, tendons, muscles, and ligaments surrounding the affected dislocation. They are typically caused by sudden trauma to the joint, such as falling or impacting something hard.
Joint Dislocation Symptoms
While some dislocation symptoms can vary based on the location of the injury, the most common symptoms of a dislocation are intense pain, stiffness, visible deformity of the joint area, bruising or redness, difficulty moving the joint, instability in the joint, and reduced muscle strength.
Joint Dislocation At-Home Treatment
You should seek medical care if you suspect a joint dislocation due to sports injury immediately – do not attempt to relocate the joint yourself. Doing so will risk further injury. Treating the dislocation quickly will reduce long-term issues.
Your Raleigh primary care physician will likely recommend a follow-up course of physiotherapy and will ensure that a splint or bandage is in place to immobilize the joint as it recovers. You will need to rest the joint and avoid activities, sports, or any movement that may cause pain in the affected joint – this is to help the surrounding tissues heal. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medication, so take your medicine only as directed. Icing the joint for 15 to 20 minutes per hour will help decrease swelling and pain, and can help prevent tissue damage.
You should contact your Raleigh primary care doctor or seek medical care immediately if you experience a fever; you have increased pain in spite of rest and medication, or you experience new weakness or pain in the joint.
Preventing Joint Dislocation
If you’ve dislocated a joint before, you’re at risk to dislocate it again. Strengthen the area by performing strength and stability exercises to support the joint. Remember to have fun, but be safe – try to avoid falling on the affected joint again. Remove any tripping hazards and make sure your home is well lighted.
A contusion, more commonly known as a bruise, is when the capillaries beneath the surface of your skin are damaged and blood begins to seep into the surrounding tissues. They are caused by a variety of ways, from an impact or falling to wrenching or straining a limb.
A contusion is most well-known by the skin of the affected area turning red, black, or blue for several days before turning yellow or green and disappearing. It may also be accompanied by swelling, a lump, or pain or tenderness around the area when touched or used.
Contusion At-Home Treatment
Many contusions will heal on their own in a few days unless they are extensive. If the contusion hasn’t improved in four or five days or you find a new lump in the affected area, contact your Raleigh primary care provider.
Contusions respond well to RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate). Don’t use heat therapy, massage the area, or stretch the area – these can slow the healing process.
Remember to warm up and stretch before engaging in exercise or sports, so that you’ll lower your risk of injury. If a sport calls for protective gear, remember to wear it. If you start a new sport, ease into it slowly as changing your habits quickly will result in hurting yourself.
Muscle Cramps and Spasms
A muscle cramp or spasm is when your muscle or group of muscles suddenly contract. They tend to occur after strenuous physical activity and can be caused by medication, dehydration, poor circulation, not stretching, fatigue, lacking magnesium or potassium, or other factors.
Muscle Spasm Symptoms
Spasms are commonly identified by pain and sharp, sudden shortening or contractions of a muscle or muscle group. This feeling is similar to stiff muscles and may feel like they need to be stretched.
Muscle Spasm At-Home Treatment
Stretch the affected muscle to relieve your cramp, and leave the area in the stretching position until the cramp is gone. Alternating heat and ice therapy can help the area if it continues to contract. Drink more fluids, especially water and sports drinks to rehydrate your body and replace any electrolytes that you may have lost exercising or while playing a sport. If necessary, massaging the muscle can also help it relax.
Preventing Muscle Spasms
If you’re going to doing something strenuous, be prepared. Stay hydrated and protect yourself from electrolyte imbalances. Remember to stretch and warm up before exercising strenuously. Contact your Raleigh primary care clinic for more information.
Tendonitis affects the tendons of your body – the fibrous bands that connect your muscles to your skeleton. The condition is present when your tendons become irritated, torn, or inflamed. Tendonitis is most commonly found in the joints and occurs from overuse, such as a repetitive motion, or when overloaded, such as increasing the level of an activity too quickly.
Though tendonitis can occur in joints all over the body, they all share the symptoms of causing pain in the tissues surrounding a joint, and can also present with weakness in that joint while being red and swollen to the touch. You may also experience limited range of motion in the area.
Tendonitis At-Home Treatment
Your Raleigh primary care doctor is the only person who can properly diagnose your tendonitis. Depending on the severity of your condition, it can take a few days to a few months to fully heal from tendonitis. Rest the area and avoid the motion that caused the injury in the first place. Ice the joint for 20 minutes three or four minutes a day. To help with the pain and the swelling, you can take over the counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. If your case is particularly severe, your primary care physician may suggest splinting or bracing the joint to prevent further injury and encourage healing.
Avoid activities that encourage repetitive motion. Increase the level of your exercise slowly and make sure that you stretch or warm up first. If something hurts, stop and rest for a while. Talk to your Raleigh primary care provider about sports medicine.
Come back next month for Part 2!
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