Injury treatment in first 48 hours
I am often asked how I handle injuries immediately after they occur. What I mean by injury here is any abnormal motion that results in lasting pain, bruising, muscle spasms and the like. If you are injured enough to warrant visiting the emergency room then follow your doctor's advice. First-aid people at your gym will be able to assist you while waiting for the ambulance in these cases.
The following is for the other times, whether you can continue the session after a 10 minute rest, or you are forced to the sidelines for a week or so.
The first thing you should do is strap on some ice. Applying cold to the area of pain reduces swelling. Having a cold pack applied for 20 minutes every hour for the rest of the day, then every 2 hours over the next day will greatly increase your healing and get you back into training sooner.
Ensure you don't place ice directly onto the skin as it can cause damage akin to frostbite if left too long. I recommend having an instant ice pack in your sports bag. These are inert until broken or punched and will last for the first treatment. Once you get home some frozen peas in a freezer bag, wrapped in a tea towel, should see you through.
These are generally from hyper-extending something like your neck or elbow. One great way to treat the injury but remain active is to apply a cold spray or roll-on while the area is in a stretch. So let's assume the right side of your neck is strained. Tilt your head to the left so the strained area is stretched. This may cause momentary discomfort but its important and should only last a few seconds. You then spray or roll the cold-in-a-bottle down the side three times. Depending on the location you may need a helper. Straighten your head to the normal position and you should feel instant relief. It may not remove the pain entirely but it will lessen it significantly. If the pain persists see your sport physiologist.
You can get the cold sprays from the supermarket however they can over-spray and get into your lungs. No harm but its unpleasant. That's one reason I like Rocksauce Chill from Rocktape Australia. It's a roll on so there is no risk of over-spray, and it easily fits into your gym bag.
Bruising and Corkies
For minor bruising you don't need to worry too much, and heparinoid cream from the chemist will handle them. This is for major bruising such as from corkies and hard impacts. For large bruises we need to promote blood flow away from the impact area and into the lymphatic system. The easiest way to do this is with kinesio tape. With two pieces of tape cut into an octopus you can create an overlap. This lifts the skin slightly so there is a little extra space for blood flow. Ice can be applied above the tape. I recommend using Rocktape as its adhesive is stronger than other brands and generally remains adhered far longer, even during high sports activity. You can get these pre-cut or cut them yourself from the roll.
Kinesio tape is useful for a multitude of aches and pains, far to many to list here. You can check out the videos from Rocktape here for loads of applications. While you can apply it yourself it's generally better to have someone trained in kinesio taping to apply it. We are lucky to have six guys at the gym trained in this (myself included), and our sports physiologist/strength and conditioning coach is a qualified taping instructor.
Another useful tool
This one is for those that are prone to injury or just want to have the best tools to get back into training ASAP. Red LED light therapy has a wealth of scientific studies backing its efficacy. You shine this light on the area of pain right against the skin. A 30 second to 2 minute burst several times throughout the day will greatly assist the healing process.
You can get these devices cheaply however their effectiveness can be dubious. That is why I recommend spending a little extra for a quality product. I have a Tendlite which is one of the best on the market. You can get it from Amazon or direct from the link above. At full price it's just under $300 but is well worth it. They often have sales with up to 30% off which is an even greater bargain. They have awesome customer service as well.
If you only take in one thing from this article, let it be the use of ice for 20 minutes every hour or two over the first 48 hours. That alone will help speed your recovery.
A cold spray or roll-on, such as Rocksauce Chill, aids niggling aches to get you back into the mix quickly.
Kinesio tape, such as Rocktape, aids clearing large bruises and many other aches including minor ligament tears (I'm currently using Rocktape for this and can train as normal).
A Red LED light device, such as the Tendlite, helps extensively with many pains.
All of these are backed by science and multiple studies. With these you can manage your own recovery. Always consult your medical professionals when the above doesn't help, if your first aid rep recommends professional consultation, with acute pain and for any serious injuries. In all of these cases ice is still your friend.
Add your thoughts in the comments and feel free to share your injury stories.