Some soreness after a workout is normal. But if pain is severe or persists for several days, it’s time to see a doctor.
If you play sports regularly, you’re likely accustomed to occasional muscle soreness. That’s normal when you push your body to its limits. Taking a couple of days to rest will usually heal the pain so you can return to your favorite workout.
However, if the pain persists, it could be a signal you’ve suffered a serious orthopedic injury that may need medical attention. In this case, waiting too long for the pain to subside or continuing to exercise through the discomfort could worsen the injury.
Learning the difference between normal soreness and a possible injury will put you on a path to proper treatment — and enable you to return to your favorite sports pain-free. Here’s what you need to know.
When to See a Doctor
Whether you’ve experienced a sudden trauma — such as a fall that breaks a bone or snaps a ligament — or an injury due to overuse, there are definite signs it’s time to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist to diagnose the injury and prescribe treatment. These include:
- Significant Swelling. Many sport injuries result in significant swelling of a joint, such as a knee or elbow. If the swelling is accompanied by bruising, tenderness, or a deformed limb, it could be a sign of a broken bone.
- Numbness and Tingling. A feeling of numbness or tingling in the arms or legs is an indication of possible nerve damage caused by a number of orthopedic disorders, including a herniated disc, pinched nerve, dislocated joint, or bone fracture. All these conditions put pressure on nerves, which, in turn, causes a “pins and needles” sensation to spread to the limbs.
- Inability to Bear Weight on the Joint. If you’re unable to bear weight on a joint, especially the knee, you may have a serious orthopedic injury. One of the characteristics of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, for example, is a feeling of instability in the knee that makes it difficult to walk without pain.
- Pain Gets Better, but Comes Back. If the pain goes away, you might believe your body has healed. But if pain returns, it may mean you’ve only experienced temporary relief. Recurrent pain, even with pain-free periods, suggests you may require medical attention.
- Lingering Pain After a Period of Rest. When you suffer a sudden trauma or extreme soreness, it’s often a good idea to rest your body for a week. In most cases, this time away from working out will give your body time to heal. Yet if after at least a week of rest the pain still persists, it’s time to see a doctor.
- Inability to Move or Bend a Joint. Typically caused by overuse, tennis elbow is one example of an injury that restricts the movement of the forearm and wrist due to inflammation of the tendons in the elbow. If you are unable to bend or move a joint, such as an elbow, wrist, or knee, the cause is likely an orthopedic injury.
Treating Your Sports Injury
If you think you’ve suffered a sports injury, you should first try the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to bring down the swelling and relieve pain. If after several days of RICE treatment the pain and stiffness linger, book an appointment with a sports medicine specialist.
Most orthopedic injuries are successfully treated with physical therapy, guided exercises, and pain medication. When conservative methods fail to alleviate the condition, surgery may be recommended.
At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, we understand how important it is for you to be active and enjoy your favorite sports. But if persistent pain is keeping you from your workouts, we can help determine the cause and get you ready to return to your exercise routine. Our philosophy is to first recommend non-surgical methods to alleviate your discomfort, and then consider surgery only when necessary.
Contact us today to set up an appointment.