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When should you see a doctor about a sports injury?

Published on October 21, 2016 at 14:42 / Updated on April 21, 2021 at 17:23

Perhaps you’re an amateur tennis player who played in a friendly tournament yesterday, and your elbow is sore today. Or maybe you’re a swimmer with an aching shoulder. Should you see a doctor right away, or wait for the pain to pass?

Why shouldn’t you see a doctor right away? The reason is that for typical minor sports injuries (muscles or tendons that are sore or stiff), the medical arsenal cannot help the injury heal any faster. There are various ways to alleviate the pain, however, and pharmacists can provide valuable advice on that front.

Pain is not a simple inconvenience. If your limb hurts but the pain is tolerable, you probably need rest in order to allow the injury to heal… and that’s most likely the first thing a doctor will tell you to do. Other than rest, other ways to help an injured limb recover – if they are used properly – include massage, gentle stretching, and changing the type of exercise you do.

Another thing to keep in mind is that certain tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging, are so precise that they detect certain abnormalities that don’t actually cause any problems. In fact, studies have shown that approximately half of all older adults have microtears in their shoulder tendons, even though they experience no symptoms.

There are red flags, however, that should prompt you to see a doctor: a progressive worsening of the pain, an injury that hurts at rest or at night, swelling or bruising that doesn’t improve, and a locked or otherwise unstable knee, elbow or other joint. When people have practiced a sport for many years, they get to know their bodies. If you pushed a little too hard during a long hike, and your usual aches and pains are persisting longer than usual, that may be an early sign that an injury is lurking. That is something to watch for.

If certain pains regularly reappear, consulting a physiotherapist may help prevent long-term injuries resulting from athletic activities. The physiotherapist can suggest strengthening and stretching exercises, posture-correcting exercises, or even make footwear recommendations.

In conclusion, if you have a sore limb after practicing a sport, and if there are no red flags, begin by respecting your pain and taking some time to rest. Your body should heal itself. Questions? Speak to your pharmacist!

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