Performing sports is an excellent way to stay active and fit, but no matter how cautiously you move about, something is bound to hurt eventually. A torn muscle, an ankle sprain, or a tendonitis may be a common occurrence in an athlete’s life – and not a very serious one – but when treated the wrong way, it can lead to lengthy recoveries or, worse, chronic conditions.
If you want to ensure you remain active and pain-free following an injury, the first thing you need to do is stop believing the myths and misconceptions that may cause more damage than the injury itself. Here are five of the most prevalent.
Myth #1: Stretching before a workout will keep you injury-free.
Whether dynamic or static, stretching is an essential part of a warm up, especially if you’re seeking to increase your flexibility and joint mobility, but stretching itself doesn’t prevent injury. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reviewed over 350 studies focusing on the link between stretching and injury prevention and concluded that stretching during a warm-up have little, if any, effect on preventing injuries. What does, in fact, help prevent injuries is a thorough warm-up, by gradually increasing blood flow and warming the muscles in preparation for the upcoming exercise session. Also consider a good cool-down routine to keep you limber and prevent tightness.
Myth #2: Applying heat to an ankle sprain will soothe your pain.
It may initially feel good, but applying heat to a new sprain or strain will do you no good. Theoretically, heat relieves pain by increasing blood flow and promoting tissue repair in the heated parts. However, when applying heat to joints and ligaments that are already inflamed, increasing blood flow will eventually increase swelling. An acute injury where swelling and/or discoloration is present should be treated with ice therapy for the first 72 hours, as cold stops internal bleeding inside the tissue, lowers metabolic activity, and reduces pain and inflammation. Cold decreases muscle spasms and “deadens” nerve activity, relieving pain during rehabilitation until normal motion is restored. It’s recommended for sprains, muscle pulls and strains, concussions, and fractures.
Myth#3: Painkillers can help control the pain of sports injuries.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication is a preferred treatment for many sports injuries where pain and swelling are present, but there is growing evidence that using anti-inflammatory agents for tendon injuries may have several unwanted side effects. At the same time, taking drugs such as ibuprofen to prevent exercise-induced pain may aggravate minor intestinal injury and “induce gut barrier dysfunction in healthy individuals.”
Myth #4: No pain, no gain.
Pain is often the natural result of a good exercise session, with throbbing joints and aching muscles being an indication that you’ve actually worked hard. There is, however, a certain amount of pain that’s ok, and you need to know for sure when and where the pain occurs during your exercise session. For instance, if your thighs burn at the end of a squat set, that’s a normal response of your body’s muscles getting tired. But when the pain occurs in joints and other areas aside from your working muscles, it could be a warning side of injured muscles and ligaments, and you should immediately stop and seek professional help.
Myth #5: Rest is the best medicine for most sports injuries.
It’s true that an individual with a shin splint may benefit from strict rest, but the same treatment for someone with a concussion may actually be harmful. A great percent of concussed patients are instructed by their physicians to rest following a diagnosis of concussion and wait for the acute symptoms to be resolved. The logic of this treatment is to avoid re-injury during recovery, but it was recently proven that patients who submitted themselves to strict rest following a concussion “displayed worse symptoms during the first 10 days after their emergency department visit.”
The best way to treat a sports injury is to see a specialist rather than relying on popular knowledge and home remedies. If you feel pain in places where you shouldn’t feel it and this forces you to give up your favorite activities, contact your local chiropractor to put you on the path to recovery as quickly as possible.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.