If you’re like the average health-conscious guy or gal, you know that exercising daily will keep you disease-free, trim…and sane.

Not only will regular activity keep your weight down, boost your immune system, keep your heart running smoothly, rev up your metabolism and sculpt your muscles, but you’ll also release pent-up energy.

How to Avoid Injury

You’ve heard this countless times, and it is advice that is worth its weight in Olympic gold: Warm up and cool down to avoid “down” time. Here’s how.

Warm Up

Warm up exercises like stretching, light jogging or walking in place are crucial. They help minimize the chance of soft tissue injury or strain. (This is especially important if you’re jumping into action first thing in the morning when your body’s still a little stiff.)

Important: don’t just do warm-ups before vigorous exercise like jogging. Do them before so-called “sedentary” activities like golf, as well. But be careful not to bounce.

Cool Down

Cooling down exercises are identical to warm-ups, only they’re performed right after you’ve engaged in your sport of choice. Performing these tasks will loosen the muscles that become cramped during vigorous exercise.

Massage Keeps You in the Game

The accumulation of lactic acid causes a lack of oxygen to the muscles. That’s why your muscles are sore after you exercise. A brief massage will help release lactic acid.

After cooling down, try kneading the affected muscle area using your fingertips. After the area is relaxed with massage, the muscles will automatically release the lactic acid, and fresh blood and oxygen will flow freely to the area.

When You Are Injured

For Wounds

If you are injured, you most likely will also have sustained an open wound. If you do incur any cut or gash, you should disinfect the area with hydrogen peroxide.

Acute or Chronic

Injuries fall under two categories: acute or chronic. Critical injuries happen all of a sudden during whatever activity you are engaged in.

If you’ve suffered a chronic injury, on the other hand, you will see swelling and redness develop. Constant injury results from long-term usage of the muscles and tendons.

Regardless of whether you suffer an acute or chronic injury, you need to stop immediately if you feel pain.

Most injuries fall into the category of fractures, sprains, strains, and dislocations. These injuries can be either acute or chronic.

What is the difference between sprains and strains? Sprains affect the ligaments. These are bands of connective tissues that join one end of a bone to the other. In the case of sprains, these groups become stretched or torn.

Strains occur when tendons-cords of tissue which connect muscle to bone–become twisted, pulled or torn.

When to See a Doctor

If you appeared any of the following symptoms, it’s best not to try to treat your injury at home:

  • If you have an old or chronic injury that suddenly becomes swollen.
  • If you see an abnormal formation of the surrounding bone or joint area.
  • If your injury causes moderate-to-severe pain (e.g., you can’t put any pressure on it), swelling or numbness.

How to Treat an Injury At Home

Use the RICE method if you don’t have any of the above symptoms.

Follow these steps immediately after the injury and continue for at least 48 hours afterward:

Rest - Reduce or completely halt movement as needed. If you have a single crutch or a cane, use it on the uninjured side.

Ice - Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time. Be careful to avoid leaving ice against the skin for more extended periods, to prevent frostbite.

(Caution: do not use heat to a recent injury. It may cause internal bleeding. Save heat for later, when it can be applied to avoid muscle tension and provide relaxation.)

Compression - Apply an ace bandage, an air boot, a unique splint or a cast to keep the swelling down.

Elevation - To reduce swelling, you will need to keep the injured area on a pillow above the level of the heart.

A couple of days after the injury you can start doing range-of-motion exercises. For instance, if your ankle has been sprained, do gentle pointing exercises with your big toe. You want to aim for early mobilization, which helps to mend the injured area.

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