It is quite often that we will experience pains, aches, niggles and discomforts, independent of the lifestyle we lead. These pains can be caused by injuries, posture, repetitive motions, exerting efforts, weakness and stress. Although we can all feel pain, not all of us can tell the difference between sorts of pain, let alone the reasons why they are happening. This will be an effort to educate on the various kinds of pains we feel. By no means would this be a “self-diagnose” guide, but more like a guideline as to how to distinguish between the different kinds of pains.
All conditions ending in the suffix -itis, indicate inflammation, consequently tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon. Many reasons contribute to this condition, but common denominator in most cases is a repetitive, low impact motion (e.g. typewriting). The repetitive, low impact motion of typing, over a long period of time can cause the inflammation of certain tendons in the forearm.
Typical symptoms would be pain, especially during or after the activity, stiffness or a dull feeling in the affected joint, possible redness of the skin and sensation of heat in the area. In extreme cases there might be swelling of the joint. The condition will affect one’s skill, so a guitarist for example, will notice difficulty playing their instrument, or even reach the point where they cannot play at all (if left untreated). Not all conditions of the tendon are tendinitis though. The term Tendinopathy would describe a wider variety of tendon issues, including tendinitis.
The best thing to do if you suspect you have tendinitis, is to visit a specialist for a diagnosis, treatment and guidelines for homecare. Do not just wait for the symptoms to go away. This is likely to make things worse.
Delayed onset of muscle soreness. It is the sensation of muscle ache the first few days after training or using your musculature for a physically demanding effort (like moving your furniture for example). Depending on the intensity of the activity and the level of one’s fitness, the DOMS can show on the same day of training, but usually it is the second day, one will really feel the pain, peaking on the third day.
During a physically demanding effort, micro-injuries occur in the muscles. It is those injuries that we perceive as pain (and not the lactic acid as it was widely believed till recently). These pains, as mentioned above, will start subsiding after the 3rd day. The pain experienced is completely different to that of an injury. It can be replicated by stretching the sore muscle or by contracting the affected muscle.
The best thing to do in case you are experiencing DOMS, is to remain active. If you have trained legs, and your legs are sore to look at, then a very light leg workout will do the trick. Ways to take edge off DOMS, is cold showers, foam rolling, self-massaging, stretching, good nutrition and rest. Although there are many things you could do at home DIY style, it is always good to pay a visit to your sports therapist once in a while to treat the areas you cannot reach (and trust me, there are many). Do not seek for a sports massage the first few days after training. A good therapist would ask you to visit them after the DOMS have subsided.
A muscle spasm is the sudden involuntary contraction of a group of muscle fibres or of the whole muscle, causing acute pain. Cramps are a typical case of muscle spasm, which happens when a group of muscle fibres goes into involuntary contraction. Of course not all spasms are cramps. Cramps are harmless and usually resolve within a few minutes. Cramps are caused by ion imbalances in the muscle.
Spasms caused by overload, by abnormal nerve stimulation or by abnormal activity of the muscle itself can last longer and affect the individual in the way walk and stand. Lumbago (lower back muscle spasm), is such an example. The pain can be nauseating and a cold sensation covers the affected area. The affected individual will have problems with every day activities, such as putting on their socks, or getting out of bed. It is usually worse early in the morning, late at night and after long periods of immobility. So walking as much and as often as possible is very beneficial. Hot patches and off the counter muscle relaxants will also help take the edge off.
Once again, it is ideal you visit a specialist for individualised diagnosis and guidelines. Sports massage has many tools which can help “switch-off” muscles that are in spasm. Muscle energy technique can help you recover faster.
Sprains - Strains
There are numerous injuries that can happen to the musculoskeletal system, so I will focus only on the most common ones, which are joint sprains and muscle strains. A joint sprain happens when the joint is being taken beyond its functional range of motion, resulting in one or more ligament tears. The equivalent injury to a muscle would be a muscle strain, where the muscle is either taken beyond its functional range of motion (stretched too far) or was loaded beyond its strength. In both cases the injury is graded, according to the severity, from minor to major (grade 1, grade 2 grade 3).
Although we usually are immediately aware of such an injury, we cannot always tell its severity. Symptoms (in both cases) would be pain, functional loss of the involved structure, weakness, swelling, discolouration and localised inflammation. These symptoms are all in line with the severity of the injury.
If you suspect you have just sprained/strained a joint/muscle, you should try and book an appointment with a specialist as soon as possible. A correct diagnosis of the severity, followed by a tailored treatment will save you days of recovery, in case the injury is serious, or ensure you do not make things worse, in case it is a minor injury. Although I strongly suggest you educate yourselves on the R.I.C.E. protocol, I urge you to discuss with your therapist before applying it to yourself.