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ounce of prevention Another post for all the “NEWBIES”… because there is so much interest in exercise during the month of January.

My last post concerned issues about self-care. Many people are gung-ho when starting a new exercise routine. Unless approached slowly and methodically, a new routine can leave you with damage to your joints, tendons and tissues (this can occur with overuse injuries as well). One of the most frequent questions I get is in regard to what steps to take should an injury occur.

First, it’s important to know what is physically taking place when you get hurt. Once you have been injured, you body may undergo three stages of inflammation and repair. The healing process depends on the severity of your injury. You may or may not experience every stage of repair.

Stage one – Acute stage – This is the inflammatory stage. It lasts between four to six weeks. Characteristics of this stage include swelling, redness, pain and loss of function in the affected area.

Stage two – Subacute stage – This is the repair and healing stage. This stage lasts about fourteen to twenty-one days after the injury. Fragile, easily damaged tissue begins to form. This tissue is not the exact tissue that was damaged so often times scar tissue can easily form.

Stage three – Chronic stage – This is the maturation stage. This stage takes place between fourteen and twenty-one days and lasts until there is complete functionality of the affected area. The connective tissue begins to heal and fibers and scar tissue begin to form. There may be muscle weakness, range of motion issues and continued decreased function in the affected area. Over a period of three months to one year, tissue and fibers become stronger. If ligament damage has occurred, this healing may take longer.

More often than not, most people experience acute type injuries. A common response to this type of injury involves using the RICE method of healing.

REST- although no one wants to get hurt, sometimes a little time off is secretly loved by even the most elite athlete. The time frame of rest depends upon the severity of the injury. For the most part, we know our bodies and are aware when it is time to get back in the game, but consult a doctor should you have any concerns.

ICE – without question, the most confusing issue to clients is whether to treat injuries with heat or ice. Heat should be used for those injuries that are in the chronic stage. Heat relieves chronic sore and stiff muscles, stimulates blood flow and increases flexibility. Ice is used to decrease swelling, pain and muscle spasms. Ice should not be used for those who have skin sensitivity, sickle cell anemia, peripheral vascular disease or Raynaud’s disease. I have Raynaud’s disease which affect my hands and toes, I often apply ice to injuries that don’t involve those areas. The sooner you apply ice to the affected area, the better potential for less inflammation. This often results in a quicker recovery.

Compression – compression helps reduce swelling. Bandages and wraps are used for compression devices. The area above and below the affected area should be included in the wrapping. Wrapping and bandaging should be used in conjunction with ice.

Elevation – raise the affected area above heart level. Elevation helps reduce swelling.

I have been seriously lacking writing anything in the humor/self-deprecating department lately, does anyone have any funny injury stories? Please share….