Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Soft Tissue Injuries

Getting old sucks. I know the rest of the family here will give me grief, seeing as I'm the youngest of the regulars, but it's true. What I lack in age I make up for in mileage, and with that mileage (or just age) come aches and pains and a tendency to get hurt more easily.

One of the most insidious types of injuries are soft tissue injuries which include things like strains, sprains, and pulled muscles. As we age, flexibility decreases and recovery time from strenuous activity increases, both of which contribute to soft tissue injuries. While these are often dismissed as "aches and pains," they can be quite serious and need treatment to heal properly.

The best way to deal with soft tissue injuries is to prevent them entirely:
  • Stretch before any kind of strenuous work. 
  • Don't work in stressful positions and avoid twisting and bending awkwardly. 
  • Take care when lifting items, and carry items close to the body instead of at arm's length.
  • Take time during work to stretch and flex, especially when changing positions or if you feel sore.
  • Remain properly hydrated while working.
  • Keep yourself in as good of physical condition as possible. Healthy bodies get hurt less.

When (not if) you suffer a soft tissue injury, the proper treatment is RICE:
  • Rest: Allow your body the time it needs to heal. Avoid activity that could aggravate the injury.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs to the injured area if possible in 20 minute intervals, 20 minutes of ice and 20 minutes without. Never apply ice packs directly to the skin! I like to wrap them in hand towels, but a shirt or other cloth works just as well.
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage or a joint brace to support the affected area, which will keep things from moving in ways that will cause further injury. Don't apply an elastic bandage too tightly, or you risk cutting off circulation and causing far more severe injury. Monitor the area while the bandage is on, and if you start to lose feeling or see a limb turn purple, remove the bandage, rest the area, and then reapply the bandage more loosely.
  • Elevation: Elevate the injured area if possible and allow joints to rest in a natural, semi-flexed position. Usually this will be the most comfortable position, which will encourage rest and speed healing. It will also limit bruising and any minor internal bleeding.
In addition to RICE, use your favorite over-the-counter pain medication as directed on the label. If this method doesn't provide substantial relief within 48-72 hours, you may need professional intervention. If you feel a pop or crack when the injury occurs, or lose major function in a limb for even a few minutes, this is not a soft tissue injury and needs treatment by a physician.

Getting old and working hard may hurt, but you can limit a lot of that.


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