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Dealing with Injuries

Most people have experienced painful muscle pulls, yet when it comes to treatment, deciding on the best course of action can be puzzling. This article describes tendonitis and bursitis (two painful conditions that affect muscles); gives tips on how to talk to a health care practitioner about an injury; and explains when to treat with heat versus ice.

Tendonitis and Bursitis
Tendonitis and bursitis are two common musculoskeletal conditions. Tendonitis is inflammation of a muscle tendon. Tendons lie at the ends of muscles, where they attach to bones. If a tendon is inflamed, acute or chronic pain occurs with movement of the muscle or joint. Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. Bursas are fluid-filled sacs surrounding joints or muscle tendons; these sacs function to guide and lubricate the muscles and joints. Symptoms of bursitis include severe pain, especially in response to touch or movement, and limited range of motion. Health care professionals diagnose tendonitis and bursitis by palpating, examining and taking a history of the injury.


Fortunately, if tendonitis or bursitis is not severe, it may heal without any long-lasting effects. Complete healing time can range form two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the injury and adherence to a good treatment plan. Restoration or proper joint motion, rehabilitative stretching and strengthening, and physical therapy are extremely effective. These treatment methods help alleviate pain, prevent tissue scarring, and return the injured area to as close to normal function as possible. An injury is less likely to heal completely with competent care.

When You're Injured
When you get injured, it's best to consult a reputable health practitioner who knows about musculoskeletal health and injuries. Receiving a specific diagnosis for you injury is important. Ask if the injury is a muscle strain or tear, a tendon pull, a ligament sprain or an irritated bursa. Don't settle for a general diagnosis, such as, "Something in your hip is inflamed." Ask for specific treatment and get the name of the particular muscle, bursa or ligament involved. Muscle names can be long and difficult to pronounce. If you're not familiar with the name your doctor gives you, have him or her write it sown so you can look it up later.

What if you can't get immediate help? Remember the acronym "RICE" for strains and sprains:

Rest the affected area and avoid further injury.

Ice the area for at least 10 minutes every two to three hours to decrease pain and swelling.

Compress the area with an elastic bandage or wrap to minimize swelling.

Elevate the area to facilitate fluid drainage from the injured site.

Ice Versus Heat
Determine whether to use ice versus heat by keeping in mind the condition of the involved tissues.

Ice. Ice numbs the area, reducing pain. It also constricts blood vessels, limiting blood supply to the injured site. This action decreases swelling. Ice can also decrease muscle spasms. If an area is painful to move or swells after exercise, use ice. The best way to use ice is to apply a pack to the painful area for approximately 15 minutes every two hours following an injury. For general irritation, use an ice pack two or three times a day. If the cold is too intense, use a towel between the ice pack and your skin.

Heat. If an injury is in a more advanced stage of healing" usually after four or five days" heat is recommended. Again, keep in mind what heat does to an area. Heat increases local blood supply, bringing healing cells to the area and potentially relaxing tight muscles. Use moist, hot towels or microwavable heat packs for no more than 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. If the heat becomes too intense, put a towel or piece of clothing between the heat source and your skin. Never sleep on a heating pad.

If an area swells after use, it probably wasn't ready to be worked. You should generally rest and ice an injury for 48 to 72 hours, but this really depends on the severity and degree of damage.

Of course, preventing injuries before they happen is best! Properly stretch and warm up before placing any physical demands on your body and pay attention to what you body is telling you. Stop exercising before you feel pain or discomfort.

Tendonitis can be helped by using a topical cream such as Biofreeze by AST

This handout is a service of IDEA, The Health & Fitness Source, the leading organization serving personal trainers, exercise instructors, and business operators. Visit IDEA's website at



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