Featured writer Joe Fleming, President of viveheatlh.com, gives us the low down on Musculoskeletal injuries:
Having an active lifestyle is being advocated globally in light of the climbing mortality statistics concerning lifestyle diseases. If you don’t take necessary precautions and considerable care, however, doing exercises might result in injuries.
Your bones give the body support and stability, but without the muscles, body movement would be impossible. Together, the musculoskeletal system is responsible for the body’s framework and dynamic movement. Aside from the bones and muscles, your musculoskeletal system also includes joints, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and connective tissues. Any of these can sustain an injury either due to repetitive stress, or sudden physical damage from an outside force.
Are You at Risk?
Anyone can suffer from musculoskeletal injuries, but some are simply at more risk, especially those people who engage in contact sports activities and those who are constantly exposed to occupational hazards. Doing the following activities can also predispose you to musculoskeletal injuries:
- Fast and repetitive motion of a body part such as running
- Overusing and overloading a specific muscle group, such as lifting without using proper body mechanics or using any equipment
- Repetitive forceful movements such as pulling and pushing heavy objects
- Engaging in contact sports, like basketball, football, and hockey
- Brittle bones due to old age or bone diseases
- Poor muscle tone due to a sedentary lifestyle
- Doing workout activities without proper warm-up and stretching exercises
Common Signs and Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Injuries
Once strenuous activities start to take a toll on your body, symptoms will begin to appear and might worsen as the days go by, especially when no immediate medical treatment is given. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal injuries are the following:
- Localized pain in the affected or overused body part
- Numbness and tingling sensation
- A heavy feeling in the affected area
- Difficulty moving the affected part
Types of Musculoskeletal Injury
The common types of musculoskeletal injuries include:
- Strain. A strain occurs when your muscles or tendons become stretched beyond their threshold. Strain injuries commonly affect the hamstring and back muscles. It is characterized by pain, swelling, and bruising or redness in the affected area.
- Sprain. A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament. Your ligaments connect your bones together at the joints. They get stretched or torn during twisting and sudden acceleration and deceleration movements. In severe cases, you might hear a popping sound in the injured area. Sprain injuries commonly involve your wrist and ankle joints.
- Dislocation. A dislocation happens when a bone is displaced or separated from its normal position, usually from a joint. Shoulder and knee joints are among the most commonly dislocated joints. Aside from numbness and tingling sensation, dislocation injuries are also very painful.
- Fracture. A fracture refers to cracked, broken, or crushed bones. Simple fractures may only present with bruising and swelling, while worse cases will show an obvious deformity and loss of function. Sometimes, a part of the bone might even protrude from the skin. Probably the most severe form of musculoskeletal injury, fractures might require anything from a cast to an open surgery.
First Aid Management and Treatment
At the first sign of a musculoskeletal injury, the first aid treatment follows the PRICE principle, which stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
The injury must be protected from further harm. Applying an ice pack to the affected area can minimize the swelling and alleviate pain. You should wrap the sprained or strained body part with a compression bandage to keep it immobilized. If you suspect a dislocation or fracture, apply a splint on the affected limb. Keeping the injury elevated helps to minimize bruising and swelling.
Imaging studies such as an X-ray must be performed to rule out fracture and dislocation. If the symptoms continue to worsen, do not hesitate to contact your physician right away and discuss further treatment options.
Dealing With Musculoskeletal Injuries
Although some risk factors cannot be avoided, you can still do something for yourself to avoid getting injured:
- Engage in regular exercises that can strengthen your muscles and bones.
- Avoid habits that affect bone health such as cigarette smoking.
- Maintain a healthy diet that benefits your musculoskeletal system.
- Listen to your body when doing your workout routine; avoid pushing yourself to the limit.
- Take a break from strenuous activities when needed.
- Always be mindful of your surroundings when working, especially outdoors.
- Wear protective gear when engaging in contact sports.
- Stay active after an injury to facilitate faster repair and recovery.
Musculoskeletal injuries were among the leading causes of missed work days in the global workforce in 2012, with at least 70% of self-reported lost days of work due to injuries affecting the bones and muscles. Approximately 2.8 million sports-related injuries were treated in emergency departments in the same year. While the chance of recovery is very high, staying in good shape and applying necessary precautions can prevent you from experiencing these injury-related consequences.