If you play sports frequently, on an amateur team, or are just a weekend enthusiast who enjoys a fun round of golf, game of softball, or an occasional long jog, walk, or bike ride, injuries are part of life. Consider this: in the U.S., there are about 8.6 million sports injuries every year, nearly half of which require medical attention. That data from the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, also notes that the huge majority of all those injuries are “exercise” or “recreation” related.
Chiropractors are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat all types of common sports injuries, whether you’re a professional, amateur, or recreational participant in your favorite activity. Many professional sports teams, in fact, have one or more chiropractors on staff during training and playing seasons to help prevent and treat injuries.
The problem for many people is knowing when to seek help. It’s tempting to assume that an injury will “get better tomorrow” and that a good night’s sleep will make everything better. Sometimes that’s true, and we do wake up in one piece, with no signs of having ever been injured. But, there are a few telling symptoms that everyone should be aware of. If you spot any of them, head to your chiropractor’s office as soon as possible:
- Swelling: There’s no need to be an alarmist and run to the doctor’s office every time you bruise your arm, leg, or finger. Swelling is a natural reaction. But what chiropractors call “excessive” swelling can be very serious.
- Discoloration: Bruising is normal, but significant color changes in the skin can be a sign of major trouble. If you get a relatively painless bruise during play, and it appears to grow, get darker, or become painful as time passes, get help quickly.
- You can’t use the limb normally: If you experience pain when using your arm or leg, especially if it hurts to bear weight, you could have a major injury and not realize it. Sometimes, everything seems fine until you try to walk or use your arm in a normal manner. Then, either the limb gives way or pain appears.
- Bones or joints that don’t look right: Even if you can move all your limbs and digits normally, you might notice that they just don’t look right while at rest. That means there’s a chance of a non-painful injury that needs treatment as quickly as possible.
- Bones or joints that don’t move normally: Sometimes our bodies feel no pain at all but we notice that an arm, leg, finger, joint, or thumb can’t move the way it normally does. This functional kind of injury can also be quite serious because it means something is blocking your typical range of motion.
- The pain or swelling appears to get worse as time passes:
Frequent Kinds of Injuries and How Chiropractors Help
There are many kinds of sports injuries. The most common ones are:
- Shin splints: Typically a result of over-use, shin splints show up as mild to severe pain on the front of the lower leg, between the knee and ankle.
- Injuries to the Achilles tendon: Usually occurring from over-use, an injury to this tendon affects the area in between the heel and lower calf.
- Swollen muscles: You know swelling when you see it. Fluid buildup in or between tissue is a response to bodily injury and often goes away after a day or so, unless the injury is serious.
- Strains: Strains are damage to muscles or tendons where they join to the bone.
- Sprains: Sprains involve damage to the ligaments that connect bones within joints.
- Fractures: Bone fractures are not breaks, but they can be extremely painful and cause serious damage if not treated immediately.
- Dislocations: This kind of joint injury is serious and can cause temporary immobilization of the area.
- Knee-related injuries: Knee injuries range from mild to serious and can involve severe pain, swelling, and immobility.
Chiropractors have multiple methods for restoring a full range of motion to injured limbs, alleviating pain in any part of the body, and speeding up the entire healing process after any kind of sports injury. The doctors use therapeutic massage, hydrotherapy, joint adjustments, spinal mobilization, ice, electrical stimulation, heat, spinal adjustment, assisted stretching, and more. The injury and its severity will usually dictate the best treatment approach. Many chiropractors specialize in sports medicine and work on injured athletes and non-athletes every day.
What Happens After the Chiropractor Sends You Home?
For many kinds of injuries, your chiropractor will send you home with a list of self-treatment methods. Follow the doctor’s advice and you’ll heal faster. While every situation is unique, here are some of the things you might be instructed to do for your injury after you see the chiropractor (Don’t worry, the physician will provide you with a detailed list of exactly what to do and how often you should do it):
- Rest: This means getting enough sleep and “resting” the injured area while you are awake. In other words, use the injured body part as little as possible.
- Compression: It often helps to wrap the injured area in a sports bandage to prevent swelling and keep bones and joints relatively still.
- Restriction: Devices like splints can help prevent accidental, unintentional movement of an injured body part.
- Elevation: Elevating a damaged knee, ankle, leg, or arm can keep pain levels down and allow the area to heal more quickly.
- Ice: Applying ice packs for about 20 minutes every couple of hours can be an effective method for reducing pain, preventing swelling, and reducing any swelling that has already occurred.
Warm Up, Stay In Shape, and Exercise Regularly
When it comes to very minor injuries, you’ll sometimes be able to treat them at home. Your chiropractor will usually give you written directions for a home treatment plan, and you should follow it carefully. But why not prevent being injured in the first place? Warming up, staying in good shape, and not jumping into excessive bouts of activity will do a lot to reduce your chance of getting hurt.
For the pro, amateur, or weekend athlete, it’s important to warm up before exercise or games, stretch frequently even when not taking part in sports, and stay in good enough condition to do your favorite sporting activities. Nearly every common sports injury can be prevented, so do what you can to keep your body in good shape and you’ll not have to make so many trips to the doctor’s office.
Don’t Let a Minor Injury Become a Major One
It’s essential to get to a chiropractor when you suffer a serious sports injury. By far, the most common mistake people make is delaying a visit to the doctor and thinking the problem will go away on its own. If you have a minor injury or aren’t sure whether to head to the chiropractor’s office or not, go. When it comes to the long-term safety and health of your body, choose to get professional help when you’re in doubt.
Our chiropractors can let you know immediately whether you need specific treatment or can just go back home and treat yourself. As the old saying goes, “Better safe than sorry.” Symptoms like muscle pain, joint soreness, swelling, redness, and others are often hard to interpret. It takes a licensed chiropractor, doctors who specialize in muscle, bone, and joint disorders, to say definitively what course of action you should follow. So, if you’re injured while playing a sport, don’t delay. Get to your chiropractor asap.