Filed under: Injury
Almost every Warfighter experiences pain at some point in his or her military career, but for many it can be a long or even chronic experience. Sometimes the treatment of pain is relatively straightforward, but at other times it needs a holistic treatment plan. And it’s no longer just a question of taking a pill. The DoD and VHA are exploring a range of alternative treatments for pain, including biofeedback, acupuncture, and various mind-body strategies that have been shown to be promising. HPRC’s new Pain Management section gives you an introduction to a variety of strategies you can do by yourself or with your doctor, and it points you to information and tools to help you understand and deal with your pain.
If you exercise regularly—or plan to start an exercise program—chances are you’ll experience shin splits at least once. That sharp, achy, sore, and/or throbbing feeling that runs down the front of your shin, also known as “tibial stress syndrome,” is a common condition among athletes, especially runners. The pain of shin splits can come from any number of underlying causes, such as overuse injuries, “flat feet,” or a more serious injury—stress fractures—usually from excessive and/or repetitive force on your legs. Usually shin splits will heal on their own with rest and basic self-care treatments, but it’s important to recognize the symptoms early on and to give yourself time to fully heal before easing back into your usual workout. See a doctor if the pain does not seem to improve with rest, if your shin is hot and inflamed, or if the swelling gets worse. To prevent shin splits, make sure that you wear the appropriate shoes for your type of foot, warm up before working out, vary the types of surfaces you run on, and address symptoms of pain early.
When you’re in pain, any relief is welcome. The good news is that researchers have found pain can be managed and alleviated, to a degree, by employing strategies that have you put your focus elsewhere. Meditation is one such strategy. A recent small study examined the experience of pain from fourteen experienced meditators and fourteen inexperienced participants. It turns out that the old adage is true: Practice makes perfect. The experienced meditators experienced pain to a lesser degree and got used to the pain more quickly. They also registered less anxiety than the unpracticed participants. The message? Practicing meditation regularly may improve how your brain handles pain.
And tune in again later for HPRC’s new section in Total Force Fitness on pain management—coming soon.
Developing technology in order to save the lives of those who serve is vitally important. To that end, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Army to develop monitoring sensors that will be able to detect blood loss early, which may help save lives on the battlefield. WPI will partner with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to create wireless sensors that can be worn on the body to detect blood loss, body movement, and posture. They will also be working to combine that information with smartphone technology that medics can use as a handheld diagnostic device in rapid-response situations.
You’ve probably heard of TBI—the acronym for traumatic brain injury. The Defense Centers of Excellence defines a traumatic brain injury as “a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, with 80-90% being mild. The symptoms, treatments, and recovery time are different for mild versus moderate-to-severe TBIs.
Common symptoms associated with TBI are:
Physical: headache, sleep disturbances, dizziness, balance problems, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears
Cognitive: slowed thinking, poor concentration, memory problems, difficulty finding words
Emotional: anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings
For more information, including strategies and suggestions for rehabilitation, check out DCoE’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Pocket Guide for Warfighters. TBI is a serious physical as well as mental injury, so it is important to consult a health professional before attempting any kind of treatment.
Try these tips from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease to prevent knee injury while you exercise:
- Avoid bending your knees past 90 degree when doing half knee bends or squats.
- Avoid twisting your knees by keeping your feet as flat as possible during stretching.
- When jumping, land with your knees bent.
Source: Handout on Health. Sports Injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease.
Since injuries can occur in physically active individuals, here are a few tips to help you stay injury free:
- Warm-up and cool-down after exercise;
- Use proper form;
- Spread activity throughout the week, not just the weekend;
- Wear appropriate safety gear;
- Increase intensity and time gradually, and
- Cross train to prevent overuse injuries.
Click here for more information: Handout on Health. Sports Injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease.
In the 10/18 In the Crosshairs, we linked to a story on from CNN.com that reported on military medical researchers that have developed a blood test that can detect if someone has suffered a concussion or a mild traumatic brain injury.
In response, Wired.com has an article in their Danger Room section that calls into question the research that has been done by the Army.
The August 16 edition of the New York Times has an interesting piece on how athletes try to follow their passion for sport while at the same time coping with the frustration of repeated injuries.
Patella bands are knee braces often worn by runners in order to alleviate the aches of a knee injury. However, do they actually get rid of knee pain? The Wall Street Journal reports that doctors say patella bands can work, but only temporarily. According to the article, their are underlying issues that remain in determining their effectiveness.