Sports and other recreational activities can create overwhelming strain on our bodies. Young athletes often experience joint and muscle pain as they push themselves to improve performance. In terms of location, knee and ankle strain is a common complaint and can lead to serious injury. Knowing how to quickly address these aches and pains when they surface will help keep you healthy and active.
4 Ways to Properly Manage Knee & Ankle Pain
- Use Ice Correctly. Most of us have heard time and time again that ice is a great way to deal with pain, but it’s also important to use ice properly in order to maximize the benefits. Ice is beneficial for decreasing inflammation and swelling. It also lessens muscle cramping or spasms and allows you to alleviate the pain. Avoid using ice immediately before physical activity, if the pain or swelling involves a nerve, if you are prone to hives from cold or if there is a wound/sore on the skin.
- Use Heat Correctly. Now that we know there are times when ice is beneficial for managing pain, it’s important to understand when heat can also be used. Heat increases circulation, inflammation and is most useful when warming up stiff or scarred tissues before stretching. Because heat can increase swelling, it’s important not to overuse it or use it after physical activity when inflammation is already heighted. Also, avoid heat immediately after an acute injury or when they body temperature is elevated from fever or heat stress.
- Apply Pain Relieving Gels. Topical pain killers, or analgesics, are sprayed on or rubbed into the skin over painful muscles or joints. Although all are designed to relieve pain, different products use different ingredients. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about which cream is best for your specific symptoms. Make sure you never use them with a heating pad, as this can damage the skin. Also, don’t apply them under tight bandages or onto wounds and damaged skin.
- Utilize TENS Therapy. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a drug-free and noninvasive treatment for pain. It works by placing electrode pads on the area of pain. Mild electrical currents generate heat to relieve stiffness, improve mobility and alleviate pain. This treatment is believed to stimulate the body’s production of endorphins or natural pain killers. This therapy can be used for both acute and chronic pain conditions but should definitely not be used by anyone with a pacemaker as the electrical current could interfere with the operation.
Local parents often ask me what it is they can do to help their young athlete manage their sports-related aches and pains. The methods of pain management I recommend definitely depend on the severity and duration of the injury, but I also strongly urge parents to have their child properly evaluated by their family doctor.