"Play through the pain" is a common mantra in all areas of the sports world, from recreational leagues up to professional and Olympic teams. But the truth is that pain is usually your body's way of letting you know that something is wrong. While most athletes can expect some level of soreness while training or competing, experts say that playing through serious pain is rarely a good idea for pros and never a good idea for amateurs and children. If you're an athlete, you're always at risk of injury from vigorous training or competition. Take a look at some of the things you need to know about staying safe and dealing with pain.
Use Caution When Training
It's easy to jump into a training regimen that's too intense, especially if you're out of practice and in a hurry to get in shape for a competing season. But it's a bad idea. It's important to start slow and increase the intensity of training sessions gradually. Your body becoming used to a routine is a sign to take it up to the next level. But if you're still struggling with a lower-intensity routine, bumping it up into a higher gear can lead to injuries and pain.
It's also important to pay attention to all aspects of a workout, including warm up, stretching, and cool down exercises. It's easy to dismiss these less strenuous parts of a workout as unimportant, but they serve a vital purpose in making your body more pliable and allowing it to recover properly after a workout. Also, don't discount the importance of adequate rest in between training session or workouts. That's the time that your body needs to recover so that you can work up to your peak potential next time.
Know The Signs of Injuries
Because you can make an injury worse by continuing to play on it, it's important to be able to differentiate between normal muscle soreness or fatigue and the kinds of symptoms that signal a serious injury. If you experience one of these symptoms, stop what you're doing immediately and seek medical attention. Do not keep playing.
- Sharp and Sudden Pain. Especially in your feet, legs, or hips. This could be a sign that you have a stress fracture. The injury can be confirmed with an X-ray.
- Sharp Chest Pain. Especially in combination with breathlessness, nausea, and excessive sweating. These can be signs of a heart attack.
- Fever. A fever accompanied by vomiting and dry skin is a sign of heat stroke, which can be deadly if not treated quickly.
- Limited Range of Motion. This might result in limping, if the problem is in one of your legs, or an inability to throw or move your arm the way that you usually do, if the problem is in your arm. This can be a sign that you've torn a muscle or ligament – a problem that will only get worse if you continue to use the muscle.
- Sudden Severe Stomach Pain. Especially when accompanied by diarrhea. Prolonged exercise can bring on a condition known ischemic colitis. This is an intestinal problem that requires medical treatment.
Know Your Pain Management Options
If you do sustain an injury, it's important to manage the pain while you recover from the injury. Keep in mind that the idea is to manage the pain so that you can rest and recover from the injury, not so that you can mask the pain and continue playing while injured.
Cold therapy helps reduce pain by temporarily numbing the nerve endings in the injured area. This can help control pain for short periods of time. Compression is used to reduce swelling and edema – your doctor may recommend that you wear compression socks, for example, after a foot injury. Medical massage can help reduce both ordinary muscle pain and pain from a severe injury, but be sure that your massage provider is familiar with treating sports injuries.
After a serious injury, your doctor will probably recommend anti-inflammatory agents like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen to reduce swelling and relieve pain. If the pain is severe, they may also prescribe narcotic pain medications, which you should be sure to take exactly according to directions, as these drugs can be dangerous if abused. Some athletes also find benefits in alternative pain relief methods like acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. However, you should be sure to consult your doctor before beginning alternative treatment so that you can be certain they don't conflict with your doctor's treatment plans.
Being aware of pain, what pain means, and how to treat pain and injury can help you continue on your path as an athlete. Failing to pay attention to your pain can lead to a worse injury that can derail your future in athletics. Don't take unnecessary chances just so you can say that you played through the pain. Talk to a professional like Potter's House Apothecary, Inc. about methods to manage pain and when to seek treatment for sports-related pain.