When we’re experiencing pain or soreness from exercise or an injury, our first inclination is treatment and recovery at home. We want to give home therapy a shot before rushing to the doctor. Fortunately, we have more tools in our toolbox than ever for at-home recovery. However, if the pain doesn’t go away, it’s best to get an orthopaedic evaluation. Professional physical therapy is often the best way to get back to our favorite activities quickly and safely.
How Can I Treat A Minor Injury at Home?
If you have a minor injury from sports or another activity, the time-tested RICE method is usually the best approach to start:
- Rest: avoid moving and putting weight on the injured area.
- Ice reduces swelling by reducing blood flow to the affected area.
- Compression with an elastic or neoprene wrap to reduce swelling.
- Elevation: raise your injury above your heart to reduce swelling and help any fluid to drain away from the affected area.
If your pain doesn’t go away after a few days, make an appointment with your orthopaedist for an evaluation. Watch for the following:
- Severe swelling or pain
- Inability to support weight on an affected joint
- Visible deformity
- Dizziness or fever
How Can I Recover From Muscle Soreness and Minor Joint Pain At Home?
Muscle soreness and minor joint pain are often a part of exercising, especially as we age. We want tools to help us recover comfortably at home. But be careful not to self-diagnose or ignore symptoms if the pain becomes worse or lasts longer than usual. Some of the best at-home
recovery tools include:
- Pain-relieving medications: Used in moderation, NSAIDs like ibuprofen and other over-the-counter medications effectively relieve pain and minor swelling. Talk with your provider about options and how to avoid overuse.
- Cold packs are a simple yet effective way to reduce swelling and inflammation, especially in a joint.
- Hot packs: heat therapy increases blood flow to the area, increasing muscle flexibility and relieving muscle soreness. Don’t use heat if you have swelling: ice is preferable in this case.
- Foam rollers are an increasingly popular and effective way for athletes to achieve myofascial release at home. Rollers can help loosen muscles and improve range of motion.
- Resistance bands allow you to stretch and rebuild strength safely without putting pressure on a sore or injured joint. They’re inexpensive and easy to use.
- Compression clothing: a 2019 study showed that compression tights can help us recover muscle function after intense exercise. Talk with your orthopaedist or trainer about whether compression garments would be helpful for you.
- Sleep: as Popular Science points out in an excellent article on sports recovery, sleep is one of the most overlooked recovery tools. It’s often our body’s best way of healing, and many adults don’t get enough sleep.
Should I Consider Professional Physical Therapy?
At-home recovery tools are accessible and can be highly effective. However, if you have consistent joint or muscle pain or an injury that won’t go away, it’s time for an orthopaedic evaluation. Professional physical therapy can tackle the ongoing issues that home recovery practices just can’t touch. Certified and trained therapists can create a targeted exercise program to help you heal safely and avoid reinjury. They can also provide medically sound advice on when to resume your activity. Professional physical therapy offers:
- Accountability and opportunities to make real progress.
- Supervision to regain strength and mobility.
- Pain management programs that are designed to avoid opioid medications.
And PT is not just about exercise. Your physical therapist has access to tools and techniques that you can’t do at home, including:
- PT massage and manual therapy
- Dry needling
- Electrical nerve stimulation
At Countryside Orthopaedics and Physical Therapy, we view each patient as a partner in their own rehab and recovery. Our team has the expertise, equipment, and targeted knowledge to help you recover safely. Our patients have the passion and drive to regain mobility and return to the activities they love. We count on patients to keep their progress going with at-home follow-up plans as directed by their therapists. Working together, we can help you come back stronger than ever.