When you get involved in sports, whether seriously or for fun, back strains and injuries are a common potential pitfall. Many such injuries are minor and will heal naturally, while others require medical attention. How you respond in the minutes and hours after hurting your back can have an impact on your healing process. Applying quick first-aid for back-related sports injuries can reduce pain, promote quick healing and even help prevent further aggravation of the injury. Here are a few tips to follow.
As with many injuries, applying ice immediately following a back injury can mitigate the swelling and inflammation, reducing the overall pain in the process. An ice pack strategically placed can numb the area, reduce the swelling and provide temporary relief, and once the ice pack is removed, blood naturally accelerates to the affected area, bringing needed nutrients to promote healing. When your back is injured, stop all sports activities and reach for the ice packs as soon as possible. Keep applying ice for several hours.
Once you’ve gotten past the initial shock of the injury, you can begin alternating heat packs with ice packs on your back injury to further relieve pain. The heat encourages blood flow and oxygenation to the affected area, as well as relaxing the muscles, while the ice slows the inflammation and deadens the pain. You can alternate heat and ice for about 48 hours after the injury, after which you may feel more comfortable with heat therapy.
Another way to control the inflammation at the injury site (which causes the pain), you can take an over-the-counter NSAID medication like Advil or Ibuprofen at regular intervals. If the over-the-counter meds aren’t doing the trick, you may want to consult a doctor to prescribe a short round of stronger medicines, just to get you over the initial shock of the injury.
You should take it easy for at least a day or so after the injury, but constant bed rest and inactivity can actually aggravate the pain by making you stiff. After the initial trauma has resolved, you should begin moving around again — slowly and gradually. Your doctor may also prescribe some rehabilitative exercises or physical therapy to re-strengthen the back muscles as they begin to heal.
If these home first-aid remedies aren’t working, if the pain continues to be severe or if your movement is sharply restricted, it’s probably time to see a back and spine specialist to see if you’ve sustained a more acute injury needing more aggressive treatment. To have your back-related sports injury examined for possible treatment, call Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center at 404-256-2633.