If you get injured in yoga, don't panic—by treating the injury properly, you can make a speedy and safe recovery and be back on the mat before you know it! The biggest part of healing an injury is making sure you stay off it and rest. Most major problems occur, not in a split second, but over the course of time; small muscle tears can turn into surgery-requiring rips and stressed bones can become stress fractures if they're not given the right course of treatment!
So read up on these tips to make sure you give your injuries what they need!
See a Doctor
When in doubt, see a doctor. Even if you don't feel like an injury is that serious, it never hurts to have it checked out by your physician. Many injuries that don't feel so bad can turn out to be tears in your muscle tissue or small stress fractures, both of which can be treated easily, but only with the proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
In studies among athletes, HI-RICE has been found to reduce the time lost to injuries by over 40%. It also significantly reduces the amount of scar tissue that forms following an injury!
Recommended by doctors, the HI-RICE course of treatment is an excellent way of making sure common injuries, such as sprains and pulled muscles, get proper care.
HI-RICE is an acronym, which stands for:
Drink lots of water and cut the caffeine. Injured muscles need all the help they can get, and staying well hydrated will promote adequate circulation to get rid of the toxins and transport nutrients in the body, and provide oxygen (in the H2O) for recovery.
This is a step highly recommended by most doctors, but don't feel obligated to follow it if you have concerns about medication.
If you don't mind mild meds, ibuprofen is an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) that combines active ingredients to relieve pain and diminish swelling. If you have tendons or muscles that are swollen, ibuprofen can not only relieve your discomfort, but also treat the inflammation that's giving you pain in the first place.
This is perhaps the most important step in HI-RICE. If you're injured, you need to rest! Remove any and all stresses from the injured area—whether that means going on bed-rest or wrapping it up in an ACE bandage.
Don't use the injured area unless absolutely necessary.
For the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury, place an ice pack on the area for twenty minutes every hour. If the ice is irritating your skin, wrap it in a towel. Icing the area reduces swelling and inflammation, as well as temporarily numbing the area, thus relieving pain and discomfort.
Early in the course of an injury it is best to direct blood flow away to prevent swelling. This keeps the muscle from becoming inflamed and tight, such that when the injury starts to heal more, healthy blood flow can return to the area without causing additional swelling and fluid retention.
Apply pressure to the injured area to help reduce swelling. (This technique is first used when you ice, as applying slight pressure with the ice pack compresses the area.) After the first 48 hours, use athletic tape or an ACE bandage to keep light pressure applied to the area throughout the day. This will slow blood flow to the area and force the bad-blood out, thus reducing swelling and inflammation.
Try and keep the injured area above the level of the heart, especially within the first 24-48 hours after the injury. This directs the blood flow away from the injured area, functioning to reduce swelling and inflammation.
It is vital to rehab an injury properly before returning to normal activities. A good comeback game-plan will not only help you return to normal activity more quickly, but can even make the area stronger and less prone to injury than before.
Don't jump full throttle back into classes after an injury. Instead, start slow and discuss the injury with your instructor before starting classes again.
Try returning in 10 minute increments: Take the first 10 minutes of class, then add another 10 minutes once a month till you're back to a normal class.
Physical Therapy Exercises
If you are lucky enough to have a physical therapist, use them! Some of the exercises may seem silly or pointless, but even the subtlest strengthening technique—done properly and consistently—can make a big difference in your rehab success.
If you don't have a PT, look up exercises online or ask your yoga instructor for guidance. Every body part, no matter how obscure, can be strengthened through specific exercises. Doing these moves daily will help compensate for the time off from injury and even get rid of a muscular discrepancy that may have caused the injury in the first place.
Stop If Necessary
Just because your injury has been feeling fine for a while doesn't mean it's entirely healed. If it starts to become painful or swollen again, start from scratch and treat the injury until it feels 100-percent.
This means, HI-RICE treatment, rehab, and probably, more time-off. It can be frustrating, but being proactive in the recovery will prevent further damage to the area. Listen to your body!
Stay Down to Bounce Up
Being injured is never fun, but if you remember what you've learned about prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, you'll be able to bounce back from even the most difficult injuries—and avoid getting more!