Treating sports injuries at home

When playing sport, exercising or gardening as part of an active healthy routine, minor muscle strain and stiffness are common. A pharmacist from South Africa’s original national courier pharmacy shares her top tips for homecare to get you back on track. 

“If you’ve physically pushed yourself harder than usual, or overexerted your muscles, it is likely you could experience muscle stiffness or delayed onset muscle soreness for a few days afterward,” says pharmacist Shriya Daya of Medipost Pharmacy

A picture of pharmacist Shriya Daya of Medipost Pharmacy standing infront of self medicated medicines.
Shriya Daya

“There are several home medicine kit essentials that can help ease the discomfort of sports injuries without the need for a doctor’s prescription. There are also basic non-pharmaceutical tips that can help reduce swelling and inflammation, which can be remembered with the acronym RICE,” she says.

for Rest ­– take a break from physical activities that could put further strain on the area. 

I for Ice therapy – place an ice pack on the area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. 

C for Compression – bandage a swollen ankle, but not too tightly, as this could cut off blood circulation. 

E for Elevation – try to keep the affected limb propped up, as this helps reduce swelling. If your ankle is sprained, try not to put your weight on it for a few days. 

“From a pharmacy perspective, one of the safest homecare medicines to relieve pain from mild sports injuries or muscle stiffness is by using a combination of a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory,” Daya says. 

The standard dose for the combination of muscle relaxant in adults is orphenadrine citrate and paracetamol 35mg/450mg [one tablet] to 70mg/900mg [two tablets], three times per day for those older than 14 years. 

“Be aware that orphenadrine can make you drowsy, therefore you should not have it if you are planning to drive or operate heavy machinery,” she warns.

“The anti-inflammatory that can be used is Ibuprofen, at a dosage of 200mg to 400mg every eight hours. The combination of both the muscle relaxant and the anti-inflammatory will be most effective.”

The recommended oral dose for adults is 200mg to 400mg, every eight hours. The maximum dose of 1 200mg per 24 hours should never be exceeded. “Be sure to eat a meal before taking oral anti-inflammatories; they can irritate the stomach lining. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist for any possible drug interactions with other medications you may be taking,” she advises.

Topical anti-inflammatory products are also available, which can be rubbed into the skin on the affected area to help reduce swelling. This has dual therapeutic benefits, as the massaging of the affected area can additionally provide relief and expedite healing, Daya points out. 

“Topical agents are preferred, as their effects are localised – compared to oral formulations that have a systemic effect, increasing the likelihood of unwanted side effects or drug interactions. Transdermal patches, such as those containing flurbiprofen, are another useful option for treating muscles or joints inflamed by exercise and can be stuck to the area like a sticky bandage.

“The active ingredient is absorbed through the skin to target the painful area and can be used in combination with oral medication like muscle relaxants or analgesics. Be careful not to place transdermal patches around the groin area or on sensitive skin,” Daya adds.  

“As with all self-care medicines, prolonged use for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor to investigate the underlying cause is discouraged. Other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, can also be helpful in treating both, muscle strains and other sports injuries, while proactively preventing future injury.”

Other preventative tips include allowing at least four to six weeks for a sports injury to heal before recommencing training. Be sure to stretch daily to prevent muscle strain, and allow for warming up and cooling down before and after every exercise session. 

“Staying hydrated is important for keeping your muscles functioning well in all physical activities. If you gym regularly, don’t train the same muscle groups every time. Rather, rotate leg days, arm days and other types of exercise as part of a regular routine.

“Eat a varied diet with sufficient protein, and foods containing magnesium, such as green leafy vegetables and beans, and potassium, such as bananas. Supplements are also available from pharmacies, including Medipost Pharmacy’s online shop.

“Exercise is one of the best natural stress relievers and is so important to our overall health and well-being. Take the time out when you need a little rest and recuperation, and you will soon feel stronger for it when you are ready to get back to your training or exercise routine,” Daya concludes.

Customers registered with Medipost Pharmacy’s chronic medication delivery service, or self-care medication online shop, have access to telephonic clinical advice from pharmacists and pharmacist’s assistants in their preferred official South African language – with convenient delivery anywhere in South Africa.

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