This is an excerpt from our latest ebook: Ask a Sports Physio, download the book for more advice and tips.
The best time to seek treatment for a sports injury is ‘as soon as possible’. This is especially true for significant injuries that affect your ability to walk or weight-bear or to carry out your normal activities. Physios can assess your injury and provide you with a diagnosis and a specific management plan for your injury. They can also refer you for further investigations such as x-rays or ultrasound scans to help with making a diagnosis or to rule-out a more serious injury.
The first 48 hours after an injury is the most critical time for the management of acute sporting injuries to avoid further damage that could later lead to impaired healing. We know that proper management in the early stages of injury can significantly reduce the time it takes for you to return to your sports or recreational activity. Your physio can advise you how to care for your injury in the early stages by providing you with specific information and the necessary compression bandages and techniques to help with the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and advise you how to avoid “HARM-ful” activities (Heat, Alcohol, Running and Massage) that may slow down your recovery.
To answer the question regarding whether you should wait until the swelling has gone down before you seek treatment, the answer is ‘no’, you don’t have to wait. Swelling is sually a sign of tissue damage. As well as assessing the significance of the swelling and providing a diagnosis, your physio can show you how to manage and minimise the swelling in the early stages to optimise your recovery. As the swelling goes down, it is important that you begin to move the injured part slowly and progressively to avoid excessive stiffness that may develop later on.
Your physio can provide advice about when to begin moving, how much and how often, and provide valuable advice about what other activities you should and shouldn’t be doing at various stages of your recovery. So even if there is some swelling, there are many things you can be doing to help your recovery with the guidance of your physio.
After the swelling has reduced, your physio can provide you with appropriate strengthening and rehabilitation exercises specific to your sporting activities to help minimise the risk of future injury to the same area, or to other areas that may compensate for any residual weaknesses. A physio can also advise you on ways to maintain your general fitness if you are unable to run or carry out your usual fitness or sporting activities because of your injury. Physios can prescribe exercises and crosstraining/fitness activities that will help to keep the rest of your body in the best possible shape for your return to sport while you recover from your injury. There is nothing worse than getting your sprained ankle ready to play again, only to find your lungs are letting you down!
So, in summary, see your physio early for a diagnosis and advice on the best way to manage and rehabilitate your injury, and how to keep the rest of your body in the best possible shape to get you back to sport as soon as possible.
This excerpt is from Physiotherapy New Zealand's Ask a Sports Physio ebook. Download the free ebook now for answers to 10 commonly asked sports physio questions. The book covers everything from shin splints to cramps and using hot and cold for injuiries.
By Dr Angela Cadogan
Physiotherapy Specialist (Musculoskeletal)
PhD, NZRPS, MNZCP (Advanced Practitioner – Sports & Orthopaedic)
Angela is a registered Physiotherapy Specialist (Musculoskeletal) working in clinical practice in Christchurch where she specialises in the assessment and management of sports injuries and musculoskeletal conditions. Angela has a special interest in shoulder pain and sees a large number of patients of all ages with a variety of shoulder conditions including sports-related shoulder pain and chronic joint and tendon disorders. Angela has a PhD in Musculoskeletal Diagnostics, specialising in the shoulder. Angela also has a Masters Degree in Sports Physiotherapy (Curtin University, Western Australia), and has worked with a number of sports teams, including working as the physiotherapist for the NZ White Ferns women’s cricket team, and NZ Cricket men’s “A” teams for eight years. www.drangelacadogan.co.nz
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