Whether you’re easing back into exercise or have maintained your conditioning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sports injuries are a common occurrence. From repetitive motion injuries to an acute injury during a recent workout, knowing when to go to the doctor can provide information, an action plan, and peace of mind while minimizing unnecessary visits. When deciding whether to make the trek to your doctor or physical therapist, there are many things to consider, such as whether you’ve experienced the injury before and if you have other health conditions.
Whether at the gym or the garden, if you experience sudden and acute pain, take it seriously. You may even hear a pop or feel a muscle tear. When something is obviously wrong, seek help.
You Have an Underlying Condition
What may seem minor to one person can be serious in another if the injury is exacerbated by an underlying condition. For example, a diabetic could suffer from nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy that stifles the feeling of pain. Diabetics may also take longer to heal due to a lack of blood flow. In this case, even something like a sore or small cut on your foot should be looked at.
A significant number of sprains and strains will heal on their own with proper care at home. Use the R.I.C.E. method to rest, ice, compress (brace), and elevate. However, if the pain is consistent after a few weeks, it’s time to have a medical professional take a look.
Swelling Doesn’t Improve
Swelling is a natural response to many types of injury. The body uses it to protect the area from further injury. Ice helps reduce swelling and as the injury heals, the swelling should reduce on its own too. If you’ve twisted an ankle or dropped a weight on your wrist and the swelling has not subsided within five days, give the doctor a ring.
Tingling, Numbness, or Burning Pain
If you’ve ever hit your “funny bone” you know what we’re talking about here. Patients describe the feeling differently, but a pins-and-needles-type sensation can indicate nerve damage and should be evaluated. Nerve pain can stem from an array of issues such as spinal disk misalignment that leads to a pinched nerve. Check-in with your providers if the symptom lasts more than a few days.
Can’t Apply Weight
When it comes to foot, ankle, leg, or knee pain, an inability to apply pressure is a concern. While it’s common to feel pain with a twisted ankle, if you can’t even put your foot on the floor, you may have something more serious going on. Use the R.I.C.E method once again. If the pain doesn’t improve even slightly within a few hours, seek medical treatment.
You’ve Hit Your Head
Some injuries automatically cause more concern than others. Even if a bone is fractured, for example, it’s not cause for life-threatening alarm. If you hit your head during a contact sport or while pumping iron at the gym, however, it requires close monitoring. If you blackout, even for a moment, be sure to let your doctor know. Also seek immediate help if you become confused, disoriented, suffer a severe headache, have blurry vision, or become nauseous.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Aches and pains are a common part of an active lifestyle, especially as we age. However, not all ailments have to be a part of your everyday life. Symptoms consistent with tendonitis, shin splints, bursitis, fasciitis, tennis, and golf elbow can likely be lessened through proper medical care, including physical therapy. If you have recurring pain in the same area, or pain that regularly occurs when in use, but goes away during rest, don’t ignore it, get it checked out.