In my last column I talked about good pain and how you can use it to become a stronger, faster athlete.
Learning the difference between good pain and pain that injures can be confusing. But you can learn to recognize common signs and symptoms and use them as a warning in the case you do in fact have an injury.
Pushing through an injury won’t make you a faster athlete. It can damage your health and mobility. While some sports injuries are immediately evident, others can creep up slowly and progressively get worse. If you don't pay attention to both types of injuries, chronic problems can develop and severely slow you down.
The following list of warning signs comes from Anybody's Sports Medicine Book, written by James Garrick and Peter Radetsky.
1. Joint pain Joint pain should never be ignored. Patellar Tendonitis (runner’s knee), Trochanteric Bursitis (hip pain) and Achilles Tendonitis are common running injuries and usually develop with overuse and are common with marathon training.
2. Tenderness at a specific point If you can create pain at a specific point in a bone, muscle or joint by pressing your finger against your skin, you may have a significant injury.
3. Swelling Swelling is usually quite obvious and visible, but occasionally you may feel swollen without outward signs. Swelling is always a sign of an injury and should never be ignored. Often, swelling within a joint will cause pain, stiffness or may produce a clicking sound as the tendons snap over one another because they have been pushed into a new position due to swelling.
4. Reduced range of motion If swelling isn't obvious, you can usually find it by checking for a reduced range of motion in a joint. If there is significant swelling within a joint, you will lose range of motion; the limb will only go so far in each direction. Compare one side of the body with the other to identify major differences. If there are any, you have an injury that needs attention.
5. Comparative weakness Comparing one side to the other for weakness is often hard to do, but can be a good clue to identify significant injury. One way to tell is to lift the same weight with the right and left side and carefully consider the result.
6. Numbness and tingling Never ignore numbness or tingling. Often related to nerve compression, these warning signs may indicate serious injury and should always be seen by a physician.
If you recognize any of the above warning signs, the goal is to prevent further damage.
You should take these steps, in the event you’re injured or experience discomfort.
1. Don't let the problem get any worse and don't let the swelling continue.
2. Look for an obvious cause of the injury such as poorly fitting equipment or a pulled muscle while sprinting. If you can locate the source of the injury, you can begin to remedy the situation.
3. If you have any of the above warning signs, do not continue your activity.
4. Begin treatment immediately.
There are ways to treat yourself and your injury, but don’t hesitate to see a doctor. A common phrase used to remember these basic steps is “rice,” which stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate.
1. Stop the activity immediately. Rest in this case simply means to stop the activity that caused the injury.
2. Apply ice to the injured part for no more than 10 minutes at a time. Let the area warm completely before applying ice again. Swelling causes pain and loss of motion, which in turn will limit use of the muscles. If you don't use the muscles, they will weaken, shorten, and resist repair which will slow down your return to your sport.
3. Elevate the injured part to reduce swelling.
4. Get to a physician, physiotherapist or chiropractor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Remember to never apply heat to acute injuries as it will increase swelling and decrease the speed of recovery.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.