It's never too early to protect your knees, shoulders and other connective parts from daily wear and tear. Joints (any area where two bones meet) hold us together and keep us moving. Take preventative measures on how to ward off problems and heal the aches you may already have.
SPRAINS: This tearing or stretching of ligaments is most common in ankles. While sprains make up a large percent of all sports injuries, you can get one from something as innocuous as tripping over a tree branch. Women are slightly more susceptible once they hit the big 3-0, a 2010 study found.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: Pain swelling and bruising that starts immediately after the injury, along with difficulty moving or putting weight on the affected joint. You may also hear a "pop" when the sprain occurs.
RX: You need RICE, right away. That acronym stands for rest, ice (up to 5X a day for 20 mins. at a time), compression (with a brace or bandage) and elevation (prop your limb higher than your heart), says David Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon. Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like Advil, can ease the pain. Most mild sprains heal within a week. If you don't see significant improvement within 72 hours, or if you're in excruciating pain, see your doctor to rule out a fracture or complete ligament tear.
TENDINITIS, unlike a sprain, tendinitis - inflammation or irritation around a tendon - generally creeps up on you. "I see it a lot," says Gerard Varlotta, professor of rehabilitation medicine at the NYU Lagone Center for Musculoskeletal Care. Often-affected joints include elbow, knee, shoulder and heel (in the Achilles tendon).
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: Tenderness and swelling around the joint; sharp pain when you move. Symptoms usually ease with rest and worsen with activity.
RX: Ice the area for 10-15 minutes 4 or 5 times a day and take an over the counter anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling. But the best treatment is R & R-rest and recuperation. That means scaling back on activity considerably. "Basically, if it hurts, don't do it," Dr Varlotta says. If the condition doesn't improve within a week - or gets better but comes back - see your doctor. They can refer you to a physical therapist who can teach you strengthening exercises or use procedures like ultrasound to help the injured tissue. (If you're offered cortisone shots, know that they relieve pain but also weaken the tendon tissue, Dr. Varlotta warns; stick to one or two if you must.) You should feel better in about 6 weeks.
Source: Hallie Levine Sklar