Sports Injury in Athletes: A Practical Guide to Pain Management

Sometimes, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. For most athletes, pain associated with sports injuries is a normal experience, and they often achieve success in spite of that pain. The question is, ‘what’s the right strategy for coping with and overcoming sports injury pain and how can you distinguish benign from potentially damaging pain?

According to doctor Neil Verma, an experienced pain management specialist, pain and sports are synonymous. An endurance athlete relishes the challenge of ‘pushing through pain’ while a boxer anticipates fighting regardless of that jarring blow to the chin. Besides, adulation is reserved for both the star rugby player and anyone who can successfully play through pain and contribute to the team. After all, heroes and winners overcome pain, losers don’t.

Sports injury pain management: RICER

If you are battling with pain associated with a twist or sprain, applying R.I.C.E.R effectively can relieve the pain. This pain management approach works perfectly as each component functions to help decrease injury pain and limit swelling.

Rest: If you have suffered a sports injury, the first thing you should do is rest. It cushions you from further body injury and joint damage. Avoid movement and call a medical expert immediately. It is also recommended to talk to a physiotherapist or doctor about the right rest period.

Ice: One way of reducing the pain, internal bleeding, and swelling is by cooling the injured tissue. Apply a pack of ice to the injury for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Compression: Wear a stabilizing tape, bandage or brace to prevent additional swelling. Ensure that the bandage isn’t too tight.

Elevation: Elevate the injured body part (using a pillow) to minimize swelling and bleeding. Remember, gravity can help draw the fluid away from the injury.  Besides, decreasing pain can help decrease swelling.

Referral: You should consult with a physiotherapist or doctor as soon as possible. A physician can make a precise diagnosis and make the right arrangements for ongoing healthcare and treatment.

The temperature treatment

Heat pads and cold packs are commonly used in managing pain associated with injuries. So, which one should you use after a sports injury, heat or ice? For how long should the treatment last?

Generally, it is recommended to use old packs after sports injuries such as ankle springs. Applying a cold pack immediately for the first 48 hours can help limit swelling around the injury and control the pain. Besides, cold treatment can be used for chronic conditions including overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, you should cool the injured area to minimize the inflammation.

On the other hand, heat treatment is used for chronic conditions as it helps relax and loosen injured body tissues. The treatment can also stimulate blood flow to the affected area. Remember, heat treatment should be used for chronic conditions like overuse injuries before activity.

Keep in mind that the tips discussed here don’t substitute medical treatment. Therefore, it is recommended to seek medical attention even after applying R.I.C.E.R.