Injury: it is nearly impossible to avoid.
Even for the most careful person, the person who warms up, cools down, and wears safety gear, injury is inevitable at some point. Stepping off a curb incorrectly or a quick motion on unstable ground can cause injury. Reacting quickly and treating the injury is important to minimize downtime and speed healing after an exercise-related injury. A good acronym to remember is RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation.
Stop the exercise immediately. Rest occurs from right after to the injury to several days after, depending on the severity of the injury (and guidance from a doctor, when appropriate). Limit physical activity or use of the injured area during this time. Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet to help your body heal.
Ice should be applied to the injured area to prevent excessive swelling. Inflammation is the body’s protective shield and is appropriate directly after the injury occurs, but after activity it is important to keep swelling down to allow the area to recover. Apply a towel-wrapped bag of ice or a cold pack for ten to 20 minutes, three times a day, or as guided by a doctor. If the swelling goes down after a day or two, you can then apply heat to the affected area.
This step is often paired with ice. The injured area can be wrapped with a flexible bandage, ice applied, and that can be held in place with another flexible bandage. Compression lends support to the injured area and keeps swelling down.
Finally, when possible, raise the injured area above the level of the heart. This prevents blood from rushing to the area and increasing swelling.
Arnica cream can also be applied to the affected area twice a day to reduce bruising and swelling.
If you cannot move the injured area, or the injury is accompanied by pain that is not eased by the previous steps, go see your doctor as soon as you can. Some injuries can be deceptive and may require a special splint or supportive device (like an inflatable boot). If you feel uncertain about the level of severity of the injury, especially if it is your first injury, then consider visiting a doctor as your first step.
Taking quick action when injured can help speed healing and ease pain; how do you respond when you get hurt?
Image by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr