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Health Center Today, July 7, 2011

Managing Pain Caused by Summer Sports

By Carolyn Pennington

Photo of a tennis playerPeople who are sedentary most of the winter may overdo it once the nice weather arrives. Dr. Thomas DeBerardino, sports medicine expert at the Health Center’s New England Musculoskeletal Institute, says you need to take seriously the soreness and pain caused by summer sports activities. So what do you do to feel better? The basics are a little bit of rest, heat and ice, and medicines to reduce inflammation.

Relief for Pain:

  • Rest
    Following an injury, a day or two of rest may help you feel better. But for simple neck or back pain, studies show that exercise is more effective than bed rest and drugs.
  • Heat and Ice
    Use ice in the first couple of days of acute pain. Ice reduces inflammation by constricting the blood vessels and reducing blood flow and swelling. After 48 hours of acute pain, heat may be applied to the affected area. Heating pads or a hot bath can help relax painful muscle spasms.
  • NSAIDs
    NSAIDs stands for “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.” They have advantages over narcotic painkillers because they are not addictive and they help control the swelling that can cause pain. At the first sign pain, start taking NSAIDs as instructed on the bottle.

In addition to these temporary band-aids, maintaining your ideal weight and getting regular aerobic exercise all year long can greatly reduce your chances of pain and injury.

Other Tips to Reduce the Risk of Injury:

Time off. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week from a particular sport to allow the body to recover.

Wear the right gear. Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment.

Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises before and after games or practice can increase flexibility.

Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.

Stop the activity if there is pain.

Avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play; decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods; wear light clothing.