Reducing Inflammation for Sports Injuries
For most athletes dealing with sports injuries, muscle pain is often the primary symptom. Injury to the soft tissues of the body such as muscles, tendons and ligaments are typically classified as either acute or chronic injuries, depending upon the onset of the injury.
Most soft-tissue injuries are painful because of the swelling and inflammation that occurs after an injury. Pain relief is often the main reason that people turn to over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications that work by reducing the inflammation that occurs as a result of the injury.
It’s helpful to know the warning signs of a serious injury in order to determine the best treatment, but here at OrthoArizona, in general, acute and chronic injuries are treated in the following ways.
Acute injuries are generally caused by a sudden impact from a collision, fall or twisting motion. Pain, swelling and other signs of trauma are immediate. The immediate treatment for acute injuries starts with the R.I.C.E. method of injury treatment (rest, ice, compression and elevation).
The most common acute injuries are tears, sprains and strains to muscles and ligaments. Tears can range from a minor partial tear to a complete tear (rupture) that requires surgical repair. Acute injuries have varying degrees of inflammation at the injury site. The role of the inflammatory cells is to help the body remove debris and dead cells and help healing. Anti-inflammatory medication is typically used to minimize inflammation.
OTCs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are commonly used to reduce inflammation. Other OTC pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, are also helpful. NSAIDs are best used immediately after injury, before swelling occurs. Side effects may include stomach upset.
Chronic soft-tissue injuries often begin as a mild, nagging pain that just never goes away. Tendinitis is a common chronic injury. Chronic injuries are treated with rest, physical therapy, and over-the-counter NSAIDs. NSAIDs provide pain relief but don’t help aid healing, and other pain relievers may work just as well.
Some sports medicine trainers use corticosteroids to treat chronic soft-tissue injuries. Local site injections can result in quick pain relief, but long term use of corticosteroids isn’t recommended. Using corticosteroids in weight-bearing tendons such as the Achilles tendon are usually avoided due to potential weakening of the tendon over time. They are much more commonly used in the upper body. Pain relief with these injections is temporary.
Although anti-inflammatory medication can be helpful in the short-term, long-term use of these medications is discouraged. Additionally, NSAIDs aren’t recommended for use before or during endurance sports. Several studies have found little actual performance benefit of taking ibuprofen and warn that it may mask pain, which can lead to increased risk of injury. Other studies have cautioned that the use of NSAIDs during ultra-distance exercise is associated with an increased risk of exertional hyponatremia.
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.