Self-Care Tips for Minor Sports Injuries

by Jenny Meints, licensed physical therapist assistant

Although being active is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, there can be a downside. While the benefits heavily outweigh the negatives, sore muscles, aches, pains and injuries can be a part of it.

No one wants to lose the endurance and strength they’ve worked hard for by taking time off, but the best way to get back in action is to take care of the injury sooner—and hopefully with a quicker recovery—rather than later with a longer recovery.

Indications something may be wrong

Pain: Listen to your body, modify or discontinue the activity. We’ve all heard the saying “No pain, no gain,” and at times this can be applicable. However it’s NOT always true.

Swelling: If the area is warm, red and/or swollen seek medical attention. While swelling with bruising may be a classic characteristic of a sprain or strain, it may also mean something more severe.

Bruising: If a bruise is present, it should start to turn from blueish-purple to more greenish-yellow after about one week, showing signs of reabsorption and healing. Monitor prolonged bruises for signs of poor healing.

Follow the PRICE principle

The PRICE principle is the gold standard for injury self-care and can help an athlete or individual return to their sport or activity more quickly.

Protection: Protect the injured person, body part and surrounding area.

Rest: Rest the involved limb, let the natural healing process occur without movement or pressure impeding it. Crutches or a sling may be useful.

Ice: Apply ice to decrease swelling and pain. Ice can be applied for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, every two hours while awake. A layer, such as a towel or pillow case, may be placed between the skin and ice to protect the skin. Ice can be held on by a compression wrap or bandage.

Compression: A compression wrap may be applied to prevent further swelling. Wrap the injured area starting away from the heart, be sure NOT to wrap tighter as you go, with the injured area ending up in the middle of the wrap. Cover half of the wrap each time in a figure 8 pattern.

Elevation: Elevate the injured limb above the heart if possible; pillows can be useful. This is to decrease blood flow to the area to help prevent further swelling.

Return to play

It is important to decrease the risk of re-injury, so modify the sport or activity to “test the waters.” Start out light and easy when returning to a workout routine or sport. This may mean decreasing the weight with lifting, decreasing the intensity with a sport or decreasing the duration or speed of a run. If pain or soreness are not present, increase the activity each time, continue to progress until you are back to full strength.

If self-care is not providing relief or improvement, consult with a doctor or physical therapist so that you can get on the road to recovery and back in action.

The University Health Center is here to help! Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with our medical clinic or physical therapy team.

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