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Taking care of sports injuries at home

Muscle injuries usually happen when the muscle isn’t warmed up and is stretched beyond its capacity. Often these are minor and can be taken care of at home. 

Photo by Anastase Maragos from

If you love lifting weights, running for fun, and Sunday mornings are made for sports, then you know how annoying an injury can be. 

Sports injuries like a twisted ankle or a pulled rotator cuff can sideline you for ages. And while it can always be good to take a break from what you are doing, sometimes it can put you behind your fitness goals. 

Muscle injuries usually happen when the muscle isn’t warmed up and is stretched beyond its capacity. Often these are minor and can be taken care of at home. 

Most of the time, if the injury is severe enough to see the doctor, you will know by the pain straight away that is the case. 

After the injury

Most of the time, we can tell we have pulled a muscle, it becomes painful, and often we feel the moment it happens. However, if you haven’t noticed it immediately, the pain will become more evident over the following hours. 

Pulling a muscle will be a sharp pain, which means you have to stop what you are doing. 

After a short while, the sharpness of the pain might be replaced by a deeper throbbing sensation. 

It is essential that if you do feel that initial sharp pain, you don’t continue to use the muscle; instead, you begin the recovery process with haste. 

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Healing cannot start until you are resting. If your ankle, knee, foot, or general leg, resting with your legs up isn’t too much strain. However, it can be challenging to get into a comfortable position when the issues are shoulder, neck, back, or arms. 

Once a muscle is injured, it is considered weakened and then susceptible to more injuries. 

For the first few hours after the injury, and perhaps the following days, rest the muscle as much as possible. 

Ice the area

Most often, the area that has an injury will begin to swell. The swelling is both a good and a bad thing. When an area of injury swells, it is typically a flood of white blood cells and fluids to the site – this is a sign of healing. However, the swelling may also further increase the pain in the area. 

The swelling is usually worse between days 2 and 4 post-injury, but it may last many months as your body heals. 


Most often, a person with some light muscle damage or a strain will have a white elastic tubing. The tubing provides compression around the injury and will help reduce the severe swelling that can occur. 

Not only that, but the compression bandage can help to support the muscle too. As you enter recovery, you can switch from these compression badges to things like kt tape shoulder blade strapping, knee support brace, or ankle taping. 

Using a compression bandage should give support but not cause any numbness or tingling – this is an indicator that the bandage is too tight. 

After one week

Most light muscle injuries will begin to heal in a matter of days – around the one-week mark, while the area might be tender, it can probably be used again – and have minor pain. 

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Once the swelling has gone down, it is possible to do some gentle movements to promote blood flow to the area and aid recovery further. 

Instead of diving back into the weights or speed you were working out before, you will need to take it slowly and build the strength back up again. 

As you start your regular stretching, you will feel if the muscle is ready to use again or if it needs to be rested further. 

It is essential to keep the injured area active as if you don’t, it is possible for there to be some muscle loss and stiffness when it starts to be used again. 

When should you see the doctor?

Sometimes what feels like a minor injury initially can turn into a much bigger one after further inspection. If the pain is unbearable or feels more than it should be, heading to the doctor is excellent. 

After a few hours, if any of the following happen, then it is time to see a physician: 

  • The swelling is more than what you’d expect
  • Lumps, unnatural angles, or deformities are present
  • Loss of strength or feeling in the area
  • Fever 
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Crunching or popping in the area of the injury

If there is no improvement after a week or two of rest, compressions, and icing – along with painkillers if required, it is time to get in touch with your doctor. 

Love working out but worried about injury? Read more: 3 Best ways to avoid injuries during your workouts.

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