Injured and recovering with P.R.I.C.E

I don’t know whether it’s been the cold weather over winter or maybe the increase in exercise for the start of 2012, but there seems to be a lot of people around me that are getting injured(including myself!). Not only are there a lot of injuries at the moment, many of them seem to be injuries to the spine or pelvis. So I decided to write a blog about injuries, prevention and using the P.R.I.C.E protocol for the recovery process.

I’m using the back as an example as there are so many people with back issues at the moment and an osteopath once said to me “It’s not about ‘IF’ you get a back injury; it’s ‘WHEN’ you get a back injury!”. What he went on to say was that the spine is so complex and allows so many different movements, that without the correct posture all the time(which lets face it, doesn’t happen often enough!) it’s only a matter of time before wear and tear takes its toll and a back injury occurs. Many people lift heavy objects for a living and even those that don’t, still lift heavy things around the house from time to time, but are we lifting with the correct posture? Are we bending through the knees and not the back, letting the legs take the strain? The answer is…..generally no!!!

Many people don’t know the correct technique and those that do, rarely use it until it’s too late. That is why so many people suffer from slipped discs(also known as prolapsed/herniated discs) which can be very painful. I have added a photo of an MRI scan taken about 8 years ago of my spine, after an accident during a football match that I hobbled away from with a broken arm and two prolapsed discs. In the photo I am pointing at the two discs that have degenerative changes which can be seen by the lack of white in them compared to the rest and if you look closely, you will see the two discs protruding from the back of the spine at the curve. This caused a lot of pain down my sciatic nerve at the time and not the kind of pain that anyone would like to experience.

I do a lot of lifting in my job and even with the right technique/posture, if I don’t look after my back and concentrate on strengthening it, I occasionally get lower back pain. So if that can happen to a personal trainer, what about the people who aren’t generally as fit or strong as a personal trainer? How do they prevent this kind of thing from happening?

There are a number of ways in which we can help ourselves to prevent injuries happening like this. Unfortunately mine happened in a freak accident. I wasn’t in control of the situation and it wasn’t a direct injury from bad posture or technique at the time, but a lot of people are in control of it and neglect to do the right things. Injuries of other areas of the body can also be prevented with a little common sense and again, the right posture or technique can be a crucial part of it.

Starting with the posture, we are all guilty of slouching into comfy sofas or having the wrong posture when sitting at a desk or even when driving a car. All of these examples are things we can control.

Thinking about the way we sit and trying to keep a neutral spine like the second picture, can help prevent back pain and disc problems. Another area in which we can all improve, is the way we pick up heavy objects……

 

Bending through the knees and picking up heavy objects correctly can go a long way to preventing back problems. By bending through the back instead of the knees, this puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on the lower back which will eventually lead to an injury and lower back pain. Both of these examples are things that can be controlled.

Unfortunately not everything in life can be controlled and therefore injuries will happen; that is inevitable, especially if you are an active person and involved in sport. Knowing what to do once you’ve got injured is the next step on the road to recovery, so here is the P.R.I.C.E protocol for you to follow…..

Protection/Prevention: Protecting yourself against further injury or preventing further damage to an area that is already injured is the first step. Strapping an injured area or using padding to protect the area is a good place to start.

Rest: Resting an injury gives it time to heal. Don’t underestimate how important it is to rest for the body to repair properly.

Ice: Icing an injury helps to reduce swelling and pain but be careful not to ice for more than 10-15 minutes maximum or it can have the opposite effect. Also, make sure ice isn’t applied directly to the skin or an ice burn can occur; keep a thin layer between the ice and skin. Ice should be applied for at least the first 72 hours after the initial injury and every 2 hours when possible.

Compression: Compressing the injured area can prevent swelling and reduce swelling that has already occurred. It also helps with the first step(protection/prevention).

Elevation: Elevating the injured area above the level of the heart(if possible) reduces the amount of blood which flows to the area and therefore prevents more swelling. It also helps the lymphatic system flush the swelling away with the aid of gravity.

By following the P.R.I.C.E protocol, it can make recovery time much less than without the knowledge of what you are supposed to do. This protocol can be followed for any injury, not just the back that I have used as an example in this blog.

I hope this blog has been useful in teaching you what to do in the event that an injury has occurred. I also hope that by seeing a real MRI scan and hearing how easy it is to injure your body just from incorrect posture, that you think about your posture more each day and where possible you use the correct techniques to hopefully prevent an injury that is very common and one that I’m seeing a lot of lately.

Thanks for reading and good luck in taking good care of your body!

No Pain, no gain?

Throughout my football career I put on a brave face through many injuries, some minor and some more serious, but in a competitive sport like football, it is important to play through what you can so you don’t lose your place in the team………or is it? I believed, when I was young, that I would be frowned upon from pulling out of training or competitive games because of an injury. Unfortunately, there were times when this was true because some of the managers in football only want one thing……to win! Most only care about what happens right now and don’t really worry about what an injury might mean to your future.

The more injuries I had and the older I got, the more I realised it was up to me to protect my body when it needed protecting, or my career would not last the distance. Unfortunately, the damage was done in my early years, by putting my body on the line one too many times for people who weren’t concerned with my future and in the long run I paid the ultimate sacrifice, an early retirement. The injuries I sustained over the years were just too much to continue playing a professional sport and that is why I am where I am today. Hopefully my experience of injuries and playing through the pain of broken bones, cartilage tears, arthritis to name a few, can help others not to make the same mistake. So, there are times when the saying “No pain, no gain!” couldn’t be further from the truth.

This picture shows a head injury that has left me with a scar across my forehead for the rest of my life! I was also playing with a broken hand!

Recently I’ve had a few people ask for my advice about injuries they are having problems with. It seems that a lot of people don’t know the basic protocol after the initial injury, so this blog will give you all you need, to help you speed up the recovery period of less serious injuries, such as sprains and strains(if in any doubt over your injury, medical advise should be sought).

Here are a few simple pointers that will help speed up the recovery process. When ever possible always follow the PRICE protocol:

  • P = Protection. Protect yourself from injury as best as you can (eg. wearing shin pads etc) but if the damage has already been done, the same principles apply; Protect the injury from further damage by stop playing or using padding to support the area.
  • R = Rest. Being brave and playing on is not always wise! Rest is important to let the injury heal no matter how big or small it may be. This can be the difference between a speedy recovery or making the injury worse and adding weeks or months to the recovery period.
  • I = Ice. Applying ice to an injury reduces pain and inflammation/swelling. It should be performed for 15-20 minutes maximum every couple of hours. Be careful not to ice for longer than 20 minutes as it can damage the tissue further rather than help it. Also, it is advisable not to put ice/ice packs direct to the skin to prevent ice burns which can be very painful! The next two steps can be performed at the same time as icing an injury to aid recovery.
  • C = Compression. Keeping an injury compressed with bandages will reduce swelling or prevent the injury from swelling further, if swelling has already occurred. You can compress at the same time as icing for added benefit. If the compression causes pins and needles, throbbing or cuts circulation as it feels too tight, take the bandage off and compress the area again but not as tight.
  • E = Elevation. By keeping an injured area elevated above the level of the heart as much as possible, it reduces swelling and lets any swelling already built up in the area track away to the nearest glands making the area less stiff and helping recovery. Again, it is a good idea to elevate an injury whilst icing.

This is a sight no one wants to see. One I can't actually remember!

So there is the basic protocol. Obviously more serious injuries will need medical treatment but this protocol will always be used along the line at some point.

Remember, no pain, no gain is not always the answer when it comes to injuries. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, so ignoring it can only make an injury worse. Don’t let a pain you have ignored turn into an injury that can cause more serious problems later in life!