Whether you’re just getting into a new favorite sport or you’ve been playing for years, it’s likely that you’re going to experience some kind of pain throughout your training and playing. Taking care of injuries and keeping your pain at bay is one of the best ways to ensure that your body is in peak physical condition and that you’re operating at the top of your game.
Treating pain and minor injuries will help ease inflammation and prevent future injury, but only if you follow the right techniques. These strategies are doctor-approved for athletes of all ages, with some modifications.
Mild to moderate joint pain can typically be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like Advil or Aleve. If you have an acute injury or have just inflamed an old one, these medications can reduce inflammation and help the injury heal while minimizing pain to the joints. If pain is more severe, your doctor may prescribe medications that can treat the pain and keep the joints healthy. In older athletes, these medications may cause harm to the liver if overused, so work with your doctor to determine if there are better treatment options.
Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to reduce joint pain and help injuries heal. With exercises, heat therapy, and even electrical nerve stimulation, physical therapy can help strengthen the joint and surrounding muscles to help prevent reinjury. Athletes of all ages can benefit from physical therapy, but older athletes may find significant improvements in range of motion after just a few sessions.
Like physical therapy, stretching works to keep the muscles that surround your joints strong. Try a few light yoga poses, or implement those old calisthenics from your high school gym classes. A good stretching routine is important both before and after exercise, and should be a part of your regular routine. If you’re experiencing stiffness, try stretching before reaching for the anti-inflammatory medications to see if that relieves your pain.
You may not like the smell of Ben Gay or Icy Hot, but the chemical compounds in these smelly salves can reduce joint pain. According to WebMD, capsaicin, a major ingredient in topical joint treatments, blocks the secretion of “substance P,” which emits pain signals to the body. Athletes with sensitive skin may find these treatments irritating, though, and they may not be able to treat more severe joint pain. In these cases, injections may be needed to drain fluid from joints and introduce anti-inflammatory drugs directly to the joint.
Whatever your age, joint pain is likely something that you’ll have to deal with over the course of your athletic career. Even if you aren’t a professional athlete, taking care of your joints will help keep them healthy so you can keep doing the activities you love well into your golden years.