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Prisma Health On Call: Answers to your orthopedic and sports medicine questions

Prisma Health’s physicians are back — and they have answers to readers’ orthopedic and sports medicine questions.

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Prisma Health orthopedic + sports medicine specialists are here to answer your questions.

Photo by Field Brabham/Prisma Health

Table of Contents

Whether walking the dog at Riverfront Park, hitting the trails at Sesqui, or trying a new sport at, well, just about anywhere, summer is the perfect time to experience the best of what COLA has to offer. But what do you do when an unexpected pain or strain keeps you from being active?

For this month’s installment of Prisma Health On Call, we asked readers to send us their orthopedic and sports medicine questions (read: just in time for summer). Here with the answers are Prisma Health orthopedic sports medicine physicians Kyle Cassas, MD, and Alexander Wagner, MD, who tackle your questions about foot pain, marathon training, joint health over 40, “text neck” + more.

Q: With a new injury or muscle strain, how do I know if I should rest it or move it to get better?

A: If an activity is causing pain, that’s typically a sign you need to stop what you’re doing. For a sudden injury, take anti-inflammatories as needed and use the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If you have persistent pain and swelling after you have tried the RICE method, it’s time to see a doctor. For more details, see these injury treatment + prevention tips.

Q: How do you alleviate lower back pain?

A: A few ways you can reduce your back pain are to:

  • Use over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen
  • Use ice packs or heat to loosen the muscles
  • Stay active with low-impact exercise (prolonged bed rest can worsen things)
  • Focus on core conditioning
  • Strive for ergonomic positioning and posturing
  • Do these lower back pain exercises

Q: How do I choose the best athletic shoe for me?

A: First, make sure your shoes are the appropriate size. It helps to get your shoe size measured every so often because a person’s foot shape and size can change over time. It is important to wear the right type of shoe based on activity, and if your shoes are causing pain or injury, it is important to see a doctor.

Pro tip: Follow these four tips for selecting the right athletic shoe.

Q: How long can an ankle swell after spraining it?

A: Swelling of the ankle typically lasts two to three days, but with a more significant sprain, swelling can last a couple of weeks. If you have persistent pain and swelling beyond one to two weeks after an ankle sprain, get it checked out by a doctor.

To prevent ankle injuries, try these ankle stretching and strengthening exercises.

Q: I exercise and walk regularly, but often have foot pain from worsening bunions. Are there any solutions to this or new remedies on the horizon? I’ve heard surgery is very painful.

A: There are treatment options available if you want to avoid surgery, such as toe spacers, bunion sleeves, and orthotics, as well as over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen for pain. There isn’t, however, a non-surgical option that can undo the formation of a bunion. See when it might be time for surgery for bunions.

Q: For middle aged adults, what are the best things we can do to support tendon/joint health now and as we prepare for aging?

A: One of the best things you can do for your joint health is to walk for at least 30 minutes every day. It’s easy, low impact and can be done anywhere. Regular exercise also helps you maintain your weight and prevent other illnesses. A few tips:

  • Warm up your muscles with some light stretching before you walk to maintain elasticity of the muscles, ligaments and tendons
  • Incorporate some resistance training to strengthen your muscles and make your joints more stable
  • Don’t do too much too soon

Q: What are exercises we can incorporate to counter “text neck” or neck strain from extended phone, tablet, or computer use?

A: Hunching forward is a common problem that can lead to neck and shoulder pain. Ensuring proper ergonomic positioning when using devices can help prevent these issues as well as simple resistance band exercises such as the band pull-apart. If you can’t alleviate these symptoms on your own, a physical therapist can teach you helpful exercises.

Q: What advice do you have for novice runners hoping to complete a full marathon?

A: First, check with your primary care provider to make sure you’re healthy enough for this type of endurance activity. Then, take it slow and give yourself plenty of time to start training. Before starting a marathon training plan, you should have a solid running base between 15-20 miles per week. To work up to this, start with short walk-run intervals and gradually increase your mileage by 10-20% per week.

Note that online beginner 8- to 12-week marathon training plans are notorious for causing overuse injuries from ramping up too quickly. Give yourself six months or more to train if this is your first attempt at an endurance race.

Q: Is it common to develop pain in the groin area years after a hip replacement?

A: Groin pain after a hip replacement can have multiple causes. A nagging pain after any surgery or procedure is worth being investigated. While it may not be of any significance, it is always better to tell your doctor.

Have more questions or need to see a specialist? See the orthopedic services Prisma Health provides + schedule an appointment with a physician.

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