What To Do If You Are Injured
Hopefully you read my section on preventing injuries and didn’t get injured doing something stupid in the weight room. But you are injured so what do you do now? Obviously, if its serious you call 9-1-1 but assuming its not that bad what do you do?
Be an informed consumer of the medical system. The first step is knowing when to go to the doctor and when to just use RICE. There are several excellent books provided free of charge by most HMOs and PPOs which help you decide what the best course of action is, call yours and ask for one. If you are seriously injured, you need to see a doctor but you don’t want to waste money on a co-pay if you don’t need to. Kaiser’s is called “Kaiser Permanente healthwise Handbook”, the AMA also puts one out called “Guide to your Family’s Symptoms”. If you have trouble getting one free from your PPO/HMO, you can click here to buy the excellent The Healthwise Handbook from amazon. Get one of these books and keep it on your bookshelf
While waiting for your appointment. For many injuries, what you do in the first 4 days can make a huge difference in the recovery time. Often it takes a few days or weeks to get into see the doctor so its up to you to take these initial steps. Again, the books above are your guide. For strains and sprains, immediate RICE is important (RICE=Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate). For many other injuries, periodic icing and anti-inflamitories like ibuprofen until you see the doctor can be very helpful.
Going to the doctor: When you go to the doctor, try to bring a spouse/friend along with you as you will probably need two sets of ears to catch all of what the doctor is saying. You need to help the doctor and explain your goals: if you need to be back to 110% because your make your living playing professional soccer his advice will be different than if you are an office worker and just want to be healed quickly so you can get back to daily activities. Do a little research if you can and come up with a list of questions you want answered, here are some examples:
- might physical therapy help this problem?
- what surgical options are there (open surgery, arthroscopic, etc) and what are pro’s and con’s of each?
- what is the success rate of this operation? What is the definition of success? What could go wrong?
- if I do nothing, what will happen?
- how long will it take after surgery before I can lift heavy again?
- what exercises must I avoid at the gym? What exercises can I safely do? can I do cardio?
Get a second opinion, especially if surgery is recommended. Surgery is not fun nor does it always solve the problem, make sure you really need it before getting it done. If your doctor is supportive, always give physical therapy a try first!
After surgery, the ball is entirely in your court. The operation gets you 20% of the way to being healed, the other 80% is up to you – take physical therapy seriously and don’t self-treat. Being too aggressive with physical therapy is even worse than no physical therapy at all because you can ruin any and all progress that has been made. You need the guidance of a physical therapist when recovering from surgery. You need to choose your physical therapist as carefully as your surgeon as it is just as important. Preferably you need to find one who works with professional sports teams with the type of injury you have. Be proactive, ask your physical therapist for homework assignments.
Don’t let your injury get you down, do what you can! You probably dont need to stop all your fitness activities because of your injury. Please check out my section on working around injuries, its very possible you can reduce or eliminate muscle loss while staying within the limits set by your doctor. Remember, its extremely important that you work with your doctor to determine what activities are acceptable.