Common Injury Treatment Advice

Whether you have suffered a new injury or are 'living' with a condition that has been bothering you for a long time, it is always best to consult a physician. This page offers a few suggestions of some things that you can do for yourself until further care by a professional is received.

The doctors at Hands-On Healthcare have been in practice for over 25 years and would like to offer some good advice and recommendations for when you are suffering acute pain and want help right away, along with advice on how to improve some everyday routines that may help you to avoid future injuries.

If you have a specific question or concern, feel free to call or ask the next time you come to the office.

Acute Pain in the Neck and Back:

Many of us have had this happen... you wake up one morning having slept with your head in an awkward position. Your neck hurts and your head is turned to one side and feels locked! What happened? If you find it difficult or painful to nod your head in recognition of this situation, you have most likely experienced a case of torticollis.

Or, maybe you have experienced sudden pain in your lower back and you don't know what you did to cause it. In theory, this could happen to any joint in our bodies.

Why does it happen?

Joints usually become stiff and lock up when they have been over- exerted. For example, if you have been sleeping on your stomach with your head turned all the way to one side, or if you happen to move to where a joint is pushed to its' outer limit. That could, for example, be an improper lift of a heavy object or a simple lift while twisting of an object that isn't heavy at all. Joints can also react by stiffening up when exposed to drafts such as from an open window or air conditioning.

An inflammation* ensues in the joint which causes tenderness and pain. The muscles will tighten up around the joint (splinting spasm) in order to limit movement of the painful joint. Restricted movement in a joint can also mean poor circulation in the affected stiff musculature which is protecting the joint. The musculature therefore becomes overexerted and tender, even painful. This can turn into a vicious cycle which requires treatment to break.

One form of treatment that can be done at home is the application of ice or some sort of cold pack. Ice works as a sedative, to some degree, relaxing the muscle. Its' use helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.

You may not be lucky enough to have a commercial ice pack on hand when an injury or pain occurs, but there are other things you can use. Of course, the commercial reuseable packs are the most convenient, however, you could use a doubled-up zip-lock type waterproof bag of crushed ice or even a bag of frozen corn or peas is usually pliable enough to conform to an injured area. Even a thick, wet hand towel which has been placed in the freezer just long enough to freeze slightly and then placed in a plastic bag can help you get the relief you are looking for!

How to Use An Ice Pack:

Always place a thin dish towel or paper towel between your skin and the ice pack (no matter what type of ice pack you use). If the injured area is an ankle, foot, or leg, you will need to sit or lie down on your back with your injured area elevated, preferably over heart level. Keep the ice on the injured area for a maximum of 20 minutes, then remove, replacing it in your freezer for 1 hour so that this procedure can be repeated. Remember, ice for 15-20 minutes then let the area rest for about an hour and then the application of ice. This can be done as many times as needed to relieve pain.

When applying ice, the initial 5 minutes may feel increasingly more uncomfortable, almost like a burning sensation (remember to use a thin towel between the icepack and your skin so that a real burn does not occur). Soon after that initial few moments, the area should become numb. By the end of the 20-minute session, it is likely that you won't even feel the ice pack.

This sequence can be repeated until the swelling and heat (the injured area may feel slightly warm) has subsided.

*Inflammation, what is that?

When you suffer an injury your body responds by developing inflammation. We DO NOT encourage the use of antibiotics as treatment for this because there is no bacteria involved. The inflammation expands the small capillary blood vessels to allow more healing cells into the area. Although the inflammation is sometimes accompanied by some level of discomfort which you will understandably want to try to minimize, remember that this is the body's way of protecting the injured area.

Classical symptoms of inflammation are: redness, pain, edema (swelling), localized temperature increase, and limited mobility of the affected area.

Good / Proper Resting Positions:

It is important to give your injured body rest and time to recouperate. However, you should continue to be physically active without overexerting and avoid movements that cause pain.

Check your mattress to see how supportive it is. A firm mattress or extra soft one may not actually be a supportive surface. Your mattress should be firm enough to be supportive yet soft enough to be forgiving without creating any pressure point pain. A pillow should only be needed to support your neck and head, keeping it level with the body. The pillow should not be placed down under your shoulders, nor do we recommend the use of serval pillows.

When getting out of bed, turn onto your side first. Keep your back straight and push your body up using elbows and hands.

Exercise and Good Health:

Exercise is often used as "the remedy" for a long list of symptoms. It has been known to have a positive effect on your overall well being and to even reduce stress levels.

Early and preventitive steps such as a well-rounded exercise program is good medicine. We need to stop poor lifestyle habits which can be the cause of real health problems. However, with millions of active athletes and even more 'weekend warriors', self-induced injuries happen more often than we like to admit, so make sure your exercise program suits you. The level of demand on your body should increase only with your level of fitness.

Whatever type of exercise or sports program you are doing, warming up is very important. Begin with the large muscle groups so you achieve a general increase in body temperature. In this way you are preparing the body for the activity, shortening your reaction time and making muscles and tendons more flexible. Working out or sports participation without warming up could result in an acute injury simply because your muscles and tendons were not ready for the workout.

Avoid exercise or sports activities when you are tired. Being tired lengthens your body's reaction time which can result in that acute type of injury such as a fall or collision with another player.

Wear the proper gear for whatever sports activity you are participating in. You wouldn't think of playing volleyball wearing football pads and cleats! So, make sure you are properly dressed for the sport and the weather, etc.

If you exercise often, vary your routine. Vary the muscle groups you concentrate on as well as the body part so that you do not exercise one-sided. Always allow your body to rest and recover. We therefore recommend that when performing strength training, give that muscle group at least one day of rest before training that muscle group again. Conditioning training such as running and cycling can be done several days in a row as long as you vary the intensity, however, we still recommend a day of rest betwen days of training to get the best long term benefits.

All that being said, should an injury occur anyway - stop the activity and remember:

  • REST
  • ICE
  • COMPRESSION
  • ELEVATION
  • MOBILIZATION

REMEMBER: PAIN IS COMMON - BUT NOT NORMAL!! It is your body telling you that need to listen and respond.

Most people experience pain in their back or neck every once in awhile while others unfortunately suffer daily. Don't suffer needlessly. Do what you can to avoid injury and... seek advice, instruction, and treatment from professionals when needed.