According to a report conducted in 2016, a staggering 126.6 million Americans suffer from some sort of musculoskeletal pain. Whether you feel stretched, strained, or severely rundown, this type of discomfort can significantly impact your overall quality of life. The question is – how do you know when you have normal aches and pains, or something that requires a specialist’s consideration?
Persistent pain warrants more attention than a wait-and-see attitude; in fact, sometimes ignoring an injury can lead to new or worse problems. Consider that you’ve sprained your ankle: “toughing it out”, or walking on those injured ligaments, can actually exacerbate the pain, leading to problems in your knees and hips.
Know your body. Try to keep an eye on your level of pain, and how long it has persisted. Soft tissue injuries – such as that twisted knee you incurred while running on city streets, or the sprained ankle that happened during your hike – should typically respond well to the “RICE” method, which consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If pain hasn’t subsided after about two days, it’s time to seek the help of an orthopedic specialist. People dealing with osteoarthritis will also benefit from this care.
Are you unable to participate in everyday activities that you once enjoyed? If gardening, walking your dog, and playing with your grandchildren now seem too strenuous, it may be a sign that your bones and joints need some extra TLC. On a larger scale, the economy and workforce also feel the effects of musculoskeletal ailments; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34 percent of all lost work days are attributed to them.
If you’re noticing certain parts of your body are as stiff as a board no matter how hard you try to stretch, you may require the help of an expert. Joint stiffness can be caused by an injury or osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that is worsened by general wear-and-tear. While it may seem counterintuitive to move injured muscles, exercise if one of the most beneficial ways to manage pain, stiffness, and swelling. Your orthopedic surgeon will likely recommend a variety of range-of-motion exercises to improve joint flexibility and stop stiffness. External rotation exercises and crossover arm stretches are particularly effective for injuries such as “frozen shoulder.”
One surefire sign you’ve suffered from significant joint damage is wobbliness, or a lack of balance. If transitioning from sitting to standing, or vice versa, is somewhat of a challenge for you, the joints of your ankles or knees may be weakened. This is the result of diminished proprioception – or the ability to recognize one’s body in relation to space. According to the National Institutes of Health, exercise programs that target balance and movement control are safe, beneficial, and enhance functional performance. Your physician can recommend a variety of injury-specific exercises geared toward your condition.
Remember: don’t self-diagnose or delay treatment. Your orthopedic surgeon will employ accurate diagnostics – from blood tests to magnetic resonance imaging to properly pinpoint your condition. Once they access the severity of your disorder, they can suggest medicines, injections, exercises, stretches, and surgical methods to mitigate your pain as efficiently as possible.
Dr. James Talkington and the staff at Florida Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics treat everything from sprains and strains to broken bones. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (850) 763-0346.