Rolling pain away
When one thinks of pain, a few sayings spring to mind: No pain no gain, You are a pain in the neck, and my favourite saying from our gym is It doesn't hurt til the bone shows! But are these true?
Nobody likes pain! And yet the sensation of pain is there for a purpose: our own protection! People who cannot feel pain are in grave jeopardy of injuring themselves. There are however different types of pain and different causes, far too many to discuss here, so we'll limit this article to No ciceptive pain, that is pain from muscles, joints and bodily structures and from injury or over use. Nociceptive pain is often experienced by sportsmen and woman and is in contrast to neurogenic pain that is caused by the nervous system and treated differently. It's important to distinguish between the two, so as to treat them correctly.
Firstly there is a need to identify the cause of the pain being experienced. Is it from muscle, ligament, bone or joint? Once we discover what is causing it one can look at how it should be managed. Pain is good! It is the body's warning and protection system. Pay attention to it, try to identify the cause and manage it accordingly. If you don't know what is causing it get professional advice from a coach, doctor or physiotherapist.
The emergency treatment for acute, sudden onset pain is summarised by the acronym MICE.
M = limited movement - keep moving a little, instead of complete rest as was the regime in the past
I = ice. Ice reduces swelling, inflammation, pain and secondary damage. A pack of frozen peas works well as it can be molded around the area of pain. Keep it on for up to five minutes and repeat every hour.
C = compression or pressure. This can be applied by a bandage or strapping to limit excessive movement and reduce swelling.
E = elevation- put it up or lift it up.
Other treatments that may be considered include:
Heat: this helps circulation, removes pain substances and relaxes muscles.
Stretching: muscles and joints need to be at optional flexibility to function well.
Massage: yes the power of touch! This is a great way to ease painful muscles, improve circulation and restore function.
Physiotherapy: there are various techniques that physiotherapists use to treat pain. They will first assess the cause of the pain, treat the pain and give exercises and / or stretches to prevent recurrence of the problem.
Rehabilitation and relative rest: This can be used to strengthen and correct weak or injured muscles and joints so as to maximize performance.
Medicine: Non-steroidal anti-inflamatiories or pain killers also have a place in the treatment of pain, but shouldn’t be used to just deaden the pain so you can continue injuring yourself. These should be used under medical advice, according to indications and at the correct dosage.
Prevention is better than cure!
The following can prevent injury in sport:
Warming up, stretching before and after, gentle increases in your training program, cross training - using different sports or training regimes in the build up to the competition, treating injuries before they become chronic and rest days.
BUT if your pain doesn't resolve in a few days, or worsens, seek professional help from your doctor or physiotherapist.
Autonomic dysreflexia is a terribly painful condition caused by the automomic nervous system that occurs with an over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. It occurs in persons with spinal cord injuries above T6 and is often caused by an over full bladder or bowel. Blood pressure rises to dangerously high levels and must be managed immediately. Failure to treat this condition can result in a stroke or even death.