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June Is Men’s Health Month!

Pain Relief for Men as They Return to Exercise

Each June, we celebrate Men’s Health Month. At this time, health care providers and the community seek new ways to improve men’s health and longevity.

Regular exercise is a great way to stay healthy. Studies show that it can prevent diabetes, heart and kidney disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases that affect men.

Yet, finding a safe form of exercise has become a challenge since the Coronavirus emerged this year.

Gyms remain closed in some areas of the country. Group classes are canceled. Meanwhile, many people spend most of their day stuck on their couch, being sedentary.

A Running Boom

As people look for a way to return to exercise and escape the confines of home quarantine, CNN health reports that running is becoming increasingly popular. Many men (and women) have started running in order to stay in shape while maintaining safe social distancing.

If you are returning to running or other forms of exercise after a prolonged period of inactivity, you are at risk for a musculoskeletal injury. These injuries involve strains, sprains, muscle tears, joint pain, and nerve irritation.

Studies show that men are less likely to visit their doctors, as compared to women. Men are more likely to ignore the pain and assume it will simply resolve on its own. This only slows down the recovery period after an injury and leads to needless suffering. If you are a man who is suffering from an injury, seek help before the pain starts to interfere with normal activities like exercising, sleeping, or your work.

Why Am I at Risk For Injuries After Being Inactive?

Long periods of inactivity, such as many people experienced during the Coronavirus quarantine, lead to disuse syndrome.

Inactivity creates several problems:

  • Disused muscles quickly start to waste. If you’ve ever had an arm or leg in a cast, you know just how fast you lose muscle mass. Generalized muscle wasting starts after a period of inactivity.
  • The heart becomes less efficient in pumping blood and providing oxygen to the body tissues. Therefore, when you restart exercising, you are more likely to suffer muscle, ligament, or joint injuries.
  • Physical inactivity can change the nervous system leading to poor concentration, depression, and anxiety.

Common Injuries in Runners

Running is a great way to get aerobic exercise, but it involves repetitive motions that can place undue strain on the body.

Running may cause one of the following musculoskeletal injuries:

  1. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome - pain in the “knee cap” (the patella), that typically worsens when you are going down a flight of stairs. It can affect a single knee or both knees.
  1. Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome - an overuse injury that causes pain on the outside of the knee and outer thigh. It can start during running when the heel strikes the ground.
  1. Plantar fasciitis - a stabbing heel pain every time you take a step. It results from inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot.
  1. Meniscus injuries - inner or lateral knee pain due to tears in small c-shaped knee cartilage. Caused by twisting movements while the knee has weight on it.
  1. Tibial stress syndrome - pain on the inside of the shin (tibia bone), commonly known as “shin splints”. A common injury in runners that affects both the tibia and the muscles that attach to it.

How a Pain Specialist Can Help

If you are suffering from a musculoskeletal injury after resuming running, a pain specialist can help you.

According to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), musculoskeletal injuries are fairly common. In 2010-2011, more than 65.8 million annual visits for musculoskeletal injuries were recorded in physician offices, emergency departments, outpatient clinics, and hospitals.

Often musculoskeletal injuries improve with rest, icing, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care.

Additionally, the following treatments offered by pain specialists can speed up your recovery:

  • Medications - prescription-strength anti-inflammatories or anesthetic skin patches are used to gradually release medication to a painful area.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) - tiny electrical impulses are delivered to the painful area through a hand-held device.
  • Nerve Blocks - numbing injections are used to decrease nerve pain in specific areas such as the ankle, knee, hip, etc.
  • Steroid Injections - steroid medication is applied to a tender area or in a painful joint, to decrease inflammation.

Injury Prevention Tips

  1. Stretch before you run.
  2. Alternate walking with running while your body readjusts to exercise.
  3. Wear proper running shoes if your feet require additional support.
  4. Run-on level ground and avoid soft surfaces like sand - they strain the joints.

If you have suffered a recent sports injury, NSPC pain specialists are available to help. Call today!