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Don’t let the risk of injury keep you on the couch!

man running

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 10,000 people receive treatment in the nation’s emergency departments each day for injuries sustained in sports and recreational activities. Whether you are a seasoned triathlete, just signed up for your first 5K or simply want to be more active with your kids or grandkids – it’s important to listen to your body and take action early if you do get injured.

Sauk Prairie Healthcare sports medicine physician, Masaru Furukawa, MD, MS, says running injuries are due to the inherent high-impact nature and physics of running.

“Injuries can also occur when a person suddenly increases the volume (number of days or hours a week you workout) and intensity of their training,” said Dr. Furukawa. “The most problematic cases are when athletes come into the clinic after running through their injury for several weeks without appropriate home care.”

You can prevent running injuries by being aware of your body and taking action early. “Basic injury care such as reducing training intensity and volume, icing, appropriately using over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications and doing home physical therapy exercises can help in caring for and ultimately heal an injury.”

When to ice:

When injured, apply ice for 20 minutes after every workout and twice a day. Be sure to place a thin fabric between the skin and ice pack. Icing an injury helps reduce pain and inflammation.

When to use heat:

In general, ice is more beneficial than heat in the first three days after an injury. Stop the use of heat if it seems to increase swelling. If you are diagnosed with a muscle strain, heat can be helpful before starting the day’s workout. You should still do an appropriate warm up before your workout.

When to use over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications:

Over-the-counter medications can be taken immediately after an injury and can help with pain. You should avoid using anti-inflammatory medications for more than two weeks straight. If you notice that you have been using anti-inflammatory medications to get through your workouts, you should be evaluated by your physician.

When to try physical therapy exercises:

Not every injury requires physical therapy. Physical therapy is specific to each injury and should be tailored to each person. A physical therapist can prescribe exercises, stretches and a training regime that will help you to regain your strength quickly and fully.

When to seek medical care following an injury:

For acute injuries, such as a fracture, dislocation or severe head injury, seek immediate medical care. For non-emergencies, see your doctor if you’ve reduced or stopped activity but have not gotten relief. “You don’t want to continue to aggravate an injury,” Dr. Furukawa warns. “That could not only prolong the healing process, but could also lead to a bigger issue. Reducing exercise volume and intensity is still the most important home remedy before seeking a doctor’s evaluation.”

Whether you call your primary care physician, or reach out directly to a sports medicine specialist, depends on your insurance. “Patients can come directly to us,” said Dr. Furukawa. “In general, however, if it is your first injury we recommend you first consult with your primary doctor, who can assess whether seeing a specialist for evaluation and treatment is necessary.”

Benefits of Physical Activity

What if you are just looking to increase your physical activity for leisure, like walking, hiking or biking, but not run a race?
Dr. Furukawa says there are many benefits to increasing your physical activity:

  • Lower your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Improve your HDL, or “good” cholesterol numbers
  • Improve your blood pressure
  • Lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce or maintain a healthy weight
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve mental health and mood

And, the number one reason to increase your physical activity: it increases your chances of living longer. Even an activity like brisk walking is beneficial – and it’s safe for most people.

The bottom line is that the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks of getting hurt. If you have questions about how to prevent an injury or how to care for one and want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Furukawa, call River Valley Clinic at 608-588-2502.