A: The first thing you need to do is rest. Use the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol for initial treatment, which can be very effective. Your rehabilitation should commence as soon as possible to allow a speedier recovery.
Exercise is an important part of recovery from injury and helpful to maintain overall conditioning. You can consider alternate exercise activities whilst your injury is healing such as water walking, swimming, cycling, rowing or weight training of the uninjured limbs.
It is always advisable to seek the advice of a health professional following an injury. It can be confusing with so many practitioners to choose from. Four of the most common options are physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, chiropractors and osteopaths.
Physiotherapists are trained to assess, diagnose and treat conditions with manual therapy and exercise. Their aim is to rehabilitate and improve a person's ability to move and function. Physiotherapy is an evidence-based health science and practitioners are required only to use treatments that have demonstrated effectiveness in scientific research.
Chiropractors focus on adjustments and manipulations but also utilise physical therapy techniques and exercise.
Osteopaths look at the relationship between the structure of the body and the way it functions. They also use a variety of techniques such as stretches, massage, pressure points and manipulation.
Exercise physiologists create individual exercise programs for those with chronic disease and following surgery. Unlike personal trainers, they have undertaken a minimum of four years' university training in how exercise affects the body's systems.
The most important factor when deciding on a practitioner is to look at the person who is providing the treatment as the relationship you develop is important in your recovery.
Avoid practitioners who make false promises and seek someone who follows evidence-based practice and utilises exercise as part of your rehabilitation.
When returning to physical activity following an injury it is important not to overdo things to begin with. Make a graduated return and ensure that you are pain-free.
Ensure that you warm-up, cool-down, use appropriate and protective equipment as well as correct technique. Do not return to sports too early for risk of re-injury.
What is the RICE protocol?
If your injury is mild, it can usually be managed with RICE, painkillers and physiotherapy. RICE stands for:
- Rest - Take a break from the activity that caused the injury. The use of crutches or a sling may be helpful.
- Ice - Use cold packs for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times a day.
- Compression - A compressive bandage can help to reduce swelling.
- Elevation - To reduce swelling, elevate the injured limb above the level of the heart. 'Toes above your nose'
Prevention of recurrence is the most important aspect of managing overuse injuries and include the use of proper equipment (eg. running shoes, racquet with correct grip size), warm-up, cool-down, correct technique and making sure that you do not overdo things.
It is important to note that even if you feel good you may not be 100 per cent for several months following an injury and extra care should be taken when returning to activities. You should consult your general practitioner or physiotherapist for advice on the most appropriate management, especially if you find you are not recovering.