All good horse-people know about musculoskeletal injuries. They diligently watch their equine friends for any sign of a limp, bump, scrape or swelling. The minute something is ‘not quite right’ they are on the phone to the vet, and Beauty is in a standing stall, resting. Equine rehab is a huge business. There are equine chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and yes, even physical therapists. And anyone who has used the services of these specialists knows how effective their treatments can be.
In my clinical experience, owners and riders alike tend to have a simple strategy for their own injuries… they ignore them. Work through them. Walk them off.
Ignoring injuries isn’t always bad. In fact, many studies on low back pain show that people who work through their pain do just as well as (and sometimes better than) those who take time off. When you’ve got twenty horses waiting to be fed (not to mention three children and two dogs and fifteen chickens…), time off isn’t a luxury you can afford.
So when should you seek external advice? When is a musculoskeletal injury bad enough to head to your family doctor or therapist?
Obviously, if you’re bleeding profusely or there’s visible bone, you need to get to an emergency room. (Not to mention the biggies like chest pain, severe shortness of breath, sudden unexplained numbness or paralysis) Other musculoskeletal symptoms that should take you there include…
- Feeling a snap or a pop, and having immediate pain that doesn’t go away.
- Sudden severe bruising and/or swelling, accompanied by severe pain and an inability to move the nearest joint or joints.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Swelling that dents or ‘pits’ when you press on it and stays that way.
- A large bulge or mass in your muscle—that may or may not be accompanied by pain.
If you don’t think it’s that bad, wait it out a day or two. Sprains (a tear of the ligaments that surround the joint) or strains (a tear of the actual muscle or tendon) are categorized by degrees. A first degree sprain or strain is minor, and will usually resolve itself with Rest, Ice (a bag of frozen peas works nicely), Compression (such as an elastic bandage), and Elevation (RICE) in a few days.
Second degree (partial tears) and third degree (complete tears) sprains/strains don’t go away immediately, and will likely require treatment to resolve. Bruising and swelling are usually present. These injuries may even require surgery (such as a complete tear of the ACL—a ligament found inside the knee joint). Without proper treatment, post-injury muscle weakness and joint instability can increase the risk of subsequent injuries. And time is of the essence in surgical conditions. The faster a torn ligament/muscle can be surgically repaired, the more successful the outcome.
Either way, if your pain is not going away (or getting worse), get it checked by your family doctor, or physical therapist. You know your body best. You could be saving yourself a whole lot of problems down the road.
Got a question about a specific muscle or joint injury? Feel free to ask in the comments below. I’ll do my best to address your questions in upcoming posts.
About the author:
Brenda Corey Dunne is a proud mom of three, military spouse, and writer. She has been practicing physiotherapy for almost twenty years. When not working, she can be found with a book in her hand, her hands in the dirt, or holding someone else’s horse. You can also find her on Twitter as @overdunne.
Photo credit: Luis Solis
Category: Health & Care