Pain management tips for sports athletes | Health - Hindustan Times

Pain management tips for sports athletes

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
May 28, 2023 10:08 AM IST

For athletes to train and compete at peak performance levels, it is necessary to manage their pain efficiently and effectively. Here are tips by expert

Pain is synonymous with sports and a common complaint seen among athletes as it is frequently associated with a sports injury where pain and injury both interfere with peak performance. When injured athletes look for medical attention their main goal is to go back to their exercises and tournaments as quickly as possible.

Pain management tips for sports athletes (Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash)
Pain management tips for sports athletes (Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Smruti Bhonsle, Consultant Anaesthesia and Pain Management Specialist at Nexus Day Surgery Centre, shared, “Some of the common Musculoskeletal issues identified in athletes are shoulder injuries, tennis elbow, back or neck pain, ACL and meniscal tears, shin splints, stress fractures, and ankle ligament injuries. For athletes to train and compete at peak performance levels, it is necessary to manage their pain efficiently and effectively as well as build up their training in such a way that they maintain their competitive edge.”

Pain management in an athlete

Pain management is a pivotal issue for athletes who train and compete at the highest performance levels. Dr Smruti Bhonsle advised, “Pain management should be based not only on the anatomical injury but physiological and psychosocial influences on the individual's pain, and should be focused on providing optimal recovery and return to play.”

Talking about immediate management of pain i.e. RICE and Splinting, she said, “If pain is experienced after exercise the remedy for any soreness is to “RICE” rest, cold compresses, elevation and reduce the length of time spent exercising. Pain after exercise or sport means something is not right. Either the warm-up and stretching leading to the sport are not adequate or the training received for that particular exercise has to be modified. Icing is an effective method of treating a sore location. Icing is important first aid after any injury. After physical exertion, an ice pack or ice massage should be used for 20 minutes. The traditional method of up to 5 days of ice followed by heat is ok for any minor injury. We feel that ice is on your side but if the discomfort persists despite the use of ice, more significant concerns may present, and you should see a doctor.”

What Next?

Dr Smruti Bhonsle highlighted, “If the athlete must play after a minor injury the pain can be managed in additional ways like massage, analgesic sprays, taping, braces and local injections, trigger point release and dry needling.”

Conditioning to avoid pain

According to Dr Smruti Bhonsle, “For a competitive sportsman, the body needs to be conditioned to the sport with the right training, appropriate nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte balance. It is crucial to warm up and stretch before any sport. It is vital to maintain aerobic capacity or stamina while resting a body part Some workouts which do not produce discomfort. For example, if your knee hurts, it is ok to continue exercising your upper extremities or even lower extremity exercises that do not worsen the condition, such as swimming or aqua jogging.” She suggested:

  • Warm down - To avoid aches and pains after exercising is to warm down by moving the joint or extremity through an activity like swimming or cycling. Typically various exercises namely stretching, range of motion, strengthening, and proprioceptive play a role and all of those must be incorporated for correct conditioning and therefore avoiding pain.
  • OTC medicines - Using over-the-counter pain medicines and anti-inflammatories always gives quick relief but should be avoided generally. these medications can cause issues with the kidneys and liver so always follow your doctor's instructions
  • Non-pharmacological Pain Management - This should be considered in the earliest stages of pain and is crucial in pain management beyond the acute phase. These include relaxation techniques such as mindfulness therapy for pain Yoga and tai-chi. Optimising sleep and nutrition is also vital.

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