Sports injuries are extremely common. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 2011–2014 saw an annual average of 8.6 million sports and recreation-related injuries in the United States.
Some of the most common sports injuries include:
- ankle sprain
- pulled groin
- strained hamstring
- shin splints
- knee injuries
Almost all musculoskeletal injuries have to do with two things: stretching a ligament too far (sprain) or overstretching/overusing muscle fibers (strain). The pain associated with these issues is often caused or exacerbated by inflammation, the body’s natural response to injury that repairs damaged tissue. While inflammation is a good thing for injury in the long run, it often causes a lot of pain in the short term and is associated with swelling, redness, warmth, pain and tightness.
The majority of the time, these injuries are painful enough to derail us for a couple of days but aren’t quite serious enough to seek professional medical help. If you’re suffering from joint or muscle pain, you may want to avoid the co-pay and possible prescription, and instead opt for an at-home treatment. We rounded up a few ways you can treat a sports injury to help you recover quickly and effectively.
Keep in mind that serious sports-related injuries deserve proper medical attention; if you aren’t sure whether an injury is serious, it’s best to err on the side of caution and head to your doctor.
Follow the RICE Method
You may have learned about the RICE method in a high school PE class or back when you were on the track team. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to recap all of the important steps this acronym stands for.
Rest. Stop whatever it is that caused the injury and rest up for the first 24–48 hours. If you restrict as much activity as possible on the injured area, you reduce the risk of further injury.
Ice. It’s important to ice an injury immediately to curb initial inflammation. It’s recommended that you have a layer between the ice and your skin (like a hand towel), icing for 20 minutes at a time every one to two hours for a day or two.
Compression. By compressing the injured area, you’ll be able to reduce swelling. Use an ace bandage to wrap the area, making sure you leave it just loose enough to allow proper circulation.
Elevation. Elevating the injury is another way to reduce swelling. For best results, keep the area elevated above the heart, if possible.
Try a Cannabis Topical Cream
Treating sports-related injuries really comes down to reducing inflammation and swelling. There are all sorts of prescription anti-inflammatory topicals, but cannabis is an excellent, all-natural option that seems to be just as effective. Marijuana is full of natural anti-inflammatory properties that help ease pain all throughout the body.
You can try:
- a cannabis-infused mentholated salve for muscle relief
- a marijuana-infused cream for all over aches.
- a targeted cannabis pain patch for localized pain and mess-free application.
Take a Salt Bath
Epsom salt is a tried and true remedy that people have sworn by for decades. Your great grandmother’s grandmother probably used this treatment, and it’s just as effective now as it was hundreds of years ago. When submerged in water, Epsom salt breaks down into magnesium and sulfate, two minerals with anti-inflammatory properties.
Soaking in an Epsom salt bath every two days can help ease aching joints and muscles. If you really want to take your treatment to the next level, try making your own cannabis-infused Epsom salt bath bomb.
Eat a Low-Inflammation Diet
There are all sorts of diet tricks you can use to help increase your chance of a speedy recovery. First thing’s first: Keep yourself hydrated, especially if you’re dealing with joint pain. The cartilage between joints, which provides cushioning for the bones, is made up of 65–80% water, and water is essential in delivering all of the nutrients needed to repair cartilage.
As for the rest of your diet, you’ll want to solve for one (predictable) thing: reducing inflammation that accompanies any injury. Eat foods high in magnesium, like cashews, cacao, molasses, leafy greens, parsnips and whole grains. Lay off acidic items like coffee, alcohol, dairy and wheat. Double down on your protein intake so you get the necessary amount of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), which restore damaged muscles.
Commit to Consistent Stretching
You probably won’t want to stretch immediately following the injury, but after a few days of rest, it’s good to get the injured areas moving to get rid of any stiffness. Take it slow your first few days back to avoid further injury. If you’re feeling up to it, go to an all-levels yoga class and let your instructor know you’re dealing with an injury; they can give you modified poses to help stretch what you need.
And while we’re on the subject, here’s an interesting fact: Many believe proper stretching before a workout can prevent injury, but the CDC hasn’t been able to find any such evidence.
What’s the key to preventing injuries? An active warm-up that increases blood flow throughout the muscles.
Now you know what to do the next time you twist an ankle or strain a muscle, and you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.
Photo Credit: Martin Barak