See the Doc or Ride it Out?
Summer is approaching, which means it’s a great time to work in your yard, get in shape and inevitably, throw your back out.
Every year, I decide I’m going to get into shape by taking up running (I don’t run) and re-landscaping my yard (with a pair of garden shears because I’m too cheap to hire someone). Without fail, three days into my vigorous goal, I hurt something.
If you have lofty goals to work out or to do anything rather strenuous, plan at some point to get mildly injured. In our attempts to do good, we often overdo it and injure ourselves. And if you are cheap like me, as you lie there, incapacitated, you wonder, “Should I spend the money to see a doctor or ride this baby out?”
Go to the doc
Go to the doctor if there is swelling, serious pain, or you can’t move the joint. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to injuries, so if you aren’t sure, go get looked at. If you fall (like off a ladder) or have some type of impact injury (like whacking yourself with a hammer or having something fall on you), definitely get looked at. Bones can have hairline fractures, only seen via X-ray, so get those boo-boos professionally examined.
Also, go see someone if you are having shooting pain, tingling, numbness or hot/cold sensations. These are often signs of nerve involvement, often seen with back injuries. Serious soft tissue injuries can require medications to help control pain, reduce swelling and treat the injury properly.
Treat it at home
Rest: for the first 48 to 72 hours post-injury
Ice: the injury 2 to 3 times a day for about 15 minutes each for first three days
Compress: wraps prevent moving joint too much; compression helps reduce swelling
Elevate: the injured body part as often as you can
If you decide to play doctor and treat a mild soft tissue injury, follow the RICE treatment model. RICE stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate.
For the first 48 to 72 hours post-injury, rest. That means stop cutting the grass, working out or doing anything that will aggravate the injury. If mild movement is tolerable, stay at the level but don’t increase the intensity or duration of work you are doing. It’s easy to worsen the injury when it’s inside that 72-hour window.
Focus on icing the injury or area of pain the first three days. Ice reduces swelling, which is one of the reasons you’re in so much pain. Bring down the swelling and you’ll bring down the pain. Don’t introduce heat at this time. Save the hot bath or heating pad for the fourth day after the injury. You’ll want to ice two to three times a day for about 15 minutes.
If you have an ACE bandage wrap, use it to stabilize the injured area. Wraps prevent you from moving the joint too much and the compression helps reduce swelling. If you don’t have a cloth wrap, plastic wrap works well (especially to hold a bag of ice in place around your knee or shoulder). Wraps are great for sprained ankles and wrists and can also be used to wrap around the torso for lower back injuries. New mothers suffering from lower back pain can benefit from wearing a Velcro torso wrap, which helps stabilize those muscles as they get back into shape.
Finally, elevate the injured body part as often as you can. If your injury is on the arm or leg, raise the limb above your heart while you are lying down. FYI: this is a great position for watching TV and gaining sympathy from others. Elevating the injury helps combat the effects of gravity, which if left to its own devices, will make your lower half swell.
So stack up some pillows, sit back in the recliner and elevate that sore limb. Then give your significant other the puppy dog eyes and state how you will feel so much better if they gave you a little ol’ back rub.
Try the RICE method for 48 hours and if you see no signs of improvement, suck it up and go see the darn doc. June 17, 2018.