Whether you are a weekend warrior or a junior athlete it's always important to warm up before getting out there. Check out ACC's sports code tailored warm up programmes available on www.accsportsmart.co.nz
However, if you are one of the almost 400,000 kiwis that injure themselves playing sport each year, make sure you get advice from a healthcare professional. There are simple first aid management practices you can instigate immediately to prevent further injury, and other protocols that will speed your recovery. Your pharmacist can advise you about these techniques, and provide suitable strapping product and pain relief medicines.
How can you tell if you have a sprain or a strain? A sprain is an injury to a ligament which will start to hurt straight away and may even feel like a broken bone. A strain is an injury to muscle or tendon. (Sometimes referred to as a "pulled muscle") When serious this may also start to hurt straight away but may be delayed for a few hours or even start hurting the next day.
Regardless of whether you have suffered a sprain or a strain, you will need to treat the area with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation):
Rest means complete rest or limited use for 48 hours to prevent further damage.
Ice means applying ice (wrapped in towel or similar) for 10-20 minutes regularly (4 to 8 times a day) for the first 24 to 48 hours.
Compression (using a compression bandage) is necessary to prevent further swelling
Elevation - keep the injured area up (above the heart if possible).
See a pharmacist, physio or GP for more serious strains/sprains.
What sort of pain killers should you take for your injury? NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatories) such as ibuprofen may be used for the first 3 to 7 days to decrease swelling and assist with pain, however ask your pharmacist first as these medicines are unsuitable for some. Topical applications may also be of use, but again, please ask which and when to use them.
Tapes, strapping and supports can aid recovery and assist further injury prevention. Your specific type and stage of injury will dictate what type is right for you. For example, rigid tape is great for preventing movement around the injury and is removed after exercise, while kineseology tape does not inhibit movement but is thought to work by improving blood flow and reducing swelling. This tape can stay on for 3 to 5 days after application to speed recovery. Firm elastic supports can provide stability. Thermal supports additionally provide warmth to loosen stiffness.
Prevention is always the best management, but see a health professional if things don't go to plan!