Movement is Medicine!
In the not too distant past, the standard treatment for a musculoskeletal injury was immobilization or bedrest. We now know that lack of movement makes sprains and strains take LONGER to heal. Gentle range of motion, muscle stabilizing exercises, and light cardio will help you maintain mobility, support the injured area, and reap the pain-relieving benefits of activating your endogenous opioid system (built in pain management)!
Ice Is Not So Nice?
For years we’ve heard that you need to minimize inflammation immediately after an injury by icing and using anti-inflammatory medication around the clock, but emerging research proves this isn’t the case. Did you know that inflammation is the first step in the healing process and takes 3-7 days to complete? By stopping this first step, you can delay full recovery. Rather than stopping the inflammatory process, we want to encourage an optimal environment for faster resolution of this process – minimizing swelling, maintaining range of motion and strength, and making sure you are getting high quality nutrition, sleep, and fluids. Fear not, ice and anti-inflammatory meds can still be used as needed for comfort!
Do I Need To See A Doctor?
For most injuries, the answer is no! The vast majority of musculoskeletal injuries will resolve with home management within a few weeks.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule. If you suspect a fracture (pinpoint tenderness over a bone, audible snap, or visible deformity), head to your nearest ER or urgent care for an x-ray. If your injury has not resolved within 2 weeks, or if it is a recurring injury, your first stop should be a doctor of physical therapy – the musculoskeletal primary care provider! While primary care physicians are an important part of the healthcare team, they need to know a little bit about a lot of things so that they can direct the patient to the expert provider. They may only get a few weeks of education on orthopedic injuries – doctors of physical therapy get 3 years!
A physical therapist can provide a comprehensive evaluation, a clinical diagnosis on par with an orthopedic surgeon’s (and more accurate than a primary care physician’s), and pain-relieving treatment all in one appointment! And fear not – you can see a physical therapist without a physician’s referral!
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