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Self-aid

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Here are some self-treatment tips for minor training injuries that may be useful to martial artists.

These tips are NOT medical advice, they are merely basic first aid methods that others have found to be beneficial in treating minor training injuries.

Pulled muscle

If you practice the martial arts, at some point you will pull (strain) a muscle. Strains are tears in muscle tissue. They are classified as
  • First-degree. Little muscle tearing, mild tenderness and pain, and a full range of motion.
  • Second-degree. Muscle or tendon is torn, very painful, and limited range of motion; there may be swelling or a depression at the injury site.
  • Third-degree. Rupture of a part of the muscle, pain is initially very severe but may subside some, and severely limited range of motion.
If you pull a muscle in class, first decide if you need a doctor. Look for swelling, changes in skin color, or other deformities. If pain or swelling is severe, if you are unable to move the injured area, or if the injury does not appear to be healing, immobilize the area and seek medical attention. If the injury is minor, here are some self-treatment tips:

PRICE

The first aid treatment for pulled muscles and most other athletic injuries is the PRICE principle. Swelling usually starts within seconds of an injury, so start PRICE as soon as possible.
  • Protect. Protect the injury from further injury. Splints, pads, and crutches may help.
  • Rest. Rest is necessary because continued exercise or other activity could aggravate or increase the injury. Stop using the injured part immediately after injury and restrict activity for 48 to 72 hours to allow the healing process to begin. During this time, gently start a limited movement of the muscle.
  • Ice. Apply ice to the injury for 15 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours. Ice causes blood vessels to contract and thus decreases bleeding from injured blood vessels. The more blood that collects in a wound, the longer it takes to heal. Place a towel over the injured area, and then apply ice, such as an ice pack, a package of frozen peas or corn, or a chemical cold pack. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin as it may injure it.
  • Compression. Between icings, keep an elastic bandage on the injury. Compression limits swelling, which, if uncontrolled, could retard healing. Following a trauma, blood and fluid from the surrounding tissue leak into the damaged area and distend the tissue. Swelling is sometimes useful since it brings antibodies to kill germs, but, if the skin is not broken, the antibodies are unnecessary, and swelling only prolongs healing. You may remove the compression while sleeping but it is best to keep the compression on every while asleep.
  • Elevation. Elevate the injured area to a level above the level of the heart to help drain excess fluid from the area and reduce swelling.
After the first 48 to 72 hours, it is important to focus on the gentle movement of the muscle or joint, use mild resistive exercise, and continue the icing. When you can move the affected area without pain, gradually return to training. Let pain be your guide. You should feel some discomfort in the area but if there is pain, reduce your training level.

During your rehabilitation, you can maintain your fitness by training around your injury. Restrict yourself to training that does not affect the injured area.

Icing tips

When an area of the body is sprained, strained, twisted, or pulled, it may take a few minutes before the swelling starts, or it may be immediate. So, when the injury occurs, do not wait, starting icing immediately. Use a cloth barrier between the ice and skin to protect the skin from freeze burns. Before leaving for home or medical attention, secure the ice pack to the injured area. Try to use crushed ice or rounded ice shapes because ice cubes have edges and corners that may irritate the injury. If available, packages of frozen peas or corn will mold around most injuries.

For the first week after an injury, only apply ice. If there is still some swelling after a week, you may want to keep using ice after each workout. If you are competing with an injury, use ice on the injury up until entering the ring and reapply afterward. After a week, if the swelling is down and the injury is just sore or stiff, use a moist heat pack or heat rub before workouts to help increase the blood flow to the area, but keep using ice after the workouts until the injury feels better.

The ice treatment should then be immediately followed by taping or wrapping of the area to maintain compression and further slow the swelling process. “Walking off” an injury will only inflame it and slow the recovery process.

Ice may also be used to slow bleeding from a shallow cut. Apply sterile gauze, if available, to the wound to help absorb the blood and then apply the ice over the gauze.

Other methods of applying cold:
  • Ice bath. An ice bath is a container filled with ice and water in which to submerge the injured area. Ice baths surround injury in cold water so less time is required for treatment.
  • Ice massage. For an ice massage, fill a small paper cup two-thirds full of water and put it in a freezer. Once the cup of water is frozen, peel down the paper until the ice is exposed. Using the cup as a handle, apply the ice in small circular motions. This allows the injury to get a cold treatment while also receiving a massage to break up scar tissue that may be building up from the injury.
  • Instant ice packs. These packs use chemicals to generate cold for a few minutes. They are designed for one-time use only. Once activated the cold is instant but it subsides rather quickly, so it will take several packs to get a full treatment, whereas, ice is cold to the last speck. The packs are handy for use in training classes since they do not require refrigeration.
  • Cold sprays. The cold from a cold spray only lasts for thirty to forty-five seconds, just long enough to take the “sting” out of a bruise, but it’s not meant to be a cold treatment. Cold sprays are usually made from explosive chemicals, so keep them away from flames. Make sure you read all the instructions. Keeping the spray in one location too long may freeze the skin.

Cramps

Cramps may be caused by metabolic deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, or potassium, Be sure your diet includes plenty of vitamins B6, C, and D. Choose leafy greens, broccoli, sprouts, tomatoes, wheat germ, sesame seeds, almonds, and green peppers. For potassium, include bananas, seeds, beans, and legumes. For magnesium, include seafood, nuts, and molasses. Try fresh carrot juice, which contains calcium lactate.

First aid for cramps:
  • Here is a trick many athletes say works. Pinch the philtrum, the fleshy protrusion under your nose, over the top lip.
  • Here is a tip used by many professional and high school coaches who say it works. To help prevent dehydration and cramps during a workout, drink dill pickle juice instead of sports drinks. There is little scientific proof that it works, but coaches and athletes swear it works. 
  • For cramps in the feet or toes, point your toes upward and backward toward the knees, them release. For cramps in the calves or thighs, massage is best. For a cramp (stitch) in your side, regulate your breathing, striving for long, regular breaths of even intervals.

Blunt abdominal trauma

Blows to the body seem innocuous at the time, but sometimes blunt abdominal trauma may later cause serious problems or even death. Without information about blows to the abdomen having occurred, many doctors in emergency rooms have missed these injuries.

Self-treatment of body blows is usually just rest and lessened or not training until the discomfort goes away. If there is a sharp pain or other symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention. What may seem like bruised ribs or muscles at first may mask underlying problems. Blunt abdominal traumas may not be fatal at the time of injury, but they may cause death hours or days later.

Emergency Medicine reports that 45-50% of cases presenting to the emergency room with blunt abdominal trauma have spleen injuries. The liver may be involved in 35-45% of cases. The spleen is in the left upper quadrant of your abdomen just under your diaphragm. It is a very vascular organ; it filters all the blood and plays an important role in protecting your body from diseases. It is surrounded by a dense capsule and is partially protected by your floating ribs. Even with these protections, it may be ruptured by punches or kicks.

In the past, any splenic injury with bleeding was treated by removing the spleen. Now, with lower grade injuries, there is a 94-97% success rate using non-operative management and conservative watching. High-risk activities, including contact sports, should be avoided for up to one year after this type of injury since re-injury could be catastrophic.

If you have pain in ribs or abdomen that will not go away after a blow to that area, watch for the danger signs: continuous abdominal pain or pain that is worse when you laugh, cough, or jump.
These are signs of irritation of the lining of the abdomen known as the peritoneum, usually caused by blood in the abdomen. Seek medical care immediately!

Sources

  • Southmayd, W. and Marshal Hoffman, M. (1981). Sports Health. Perigee Books.
  • Doucet, M. J. (2004). Blunt Abdominal Trauma or Why Does My Belly Hurt So Bad. [Online]. Available: http://www.closerangecombat.com [2004, July 5].
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