Dealing with Arm Discomfort

“So you have a little arm pain, just shake it off, and keep playing!”

“Go hard or go home!”

“Don’t be such a wuss!”

“Big kids don’t whine!”

These are a few of the responses we hear at games when people are complaining about pain and while we think we are motivating someone to push themselves, in more times than not, we are adding strains and damage to an already hurt area.

Some people feel that pain is part of sports, and treat arm pain as part of the game. Anyone who has thrown a ball and heard the sickening crunch or felt the dagger like pain in the shoulder from over extending or torquing their rotator cuff can surely attest to this being not only something painful, but something very scary at the same time. Catcher’s who feel the solid smack of the ball in the center of their glove, know only too well how the pain can radiate up the elbow with every single catch, and how sometimes these repetitive blows can turn into small cracks or breaks in the hand bones that will leave you in agony after a few days of play without proper treatment and protection.

So what does it really matter if the players are hurt? This used to be the attitude in all sports, professional and otherwise. But the managers and coaches started to notice something. If a player can’t throw at 100%, the game play suffers, the player morale suffers and eventually the whole team suffers. To top it off, it’s cheaper to treat any injury and have quality backup players than it is to lose a good player and have to pay for more severe medical expenses.

As we head toward spring, and our minds are filled with thoughts about sports, we really should take a couple of minutes and get prepared for some of the aches and strains. One of the more frequent complaints by ball players is sore arms. This is completely normal, and par for the course, as the arms are the most exercised and overworked part of the body in baseball. So here are a few guidelines to help you through a year of play with as little or no pain as possible.

How do we prevent the injuries and avoid these pains in the first place? The best way to avoid unnecessary injury in the game or practice is to:

  • a) wear the proper, correctly sized equipment
  • b)stretch before playing
  • c) get plenty of exercise to build muscle mass in the arms and legs so the body will be able to better handle the punishment it sometimes receives during play

Okay, we have our gear on, we warmed up, and we start playing, suddenly we notice something hurts. Now what? For starters, let’s take a brief look at arm pain and what to do when you first feel it.

First, ask yourself if it’s severe, moderate or just a little achy. Severe pain is the bodies way of saying “STOP!!! There is something really wrong here!!!”. If it hurts that bad, see the coach or the team first aid person. Chances are very good, that they will send you to the hospital or a doctor’s for a quick exam. If you end up at the doctor’s, listen very close to what they say, and follow their suggestions about future use very carefully. These guys are professionals, and know what they are talking about! Deciding to return to play earlier than suggested can lead to further damage that can result in a lost season, or worse permanent damage.

If the pain is only moderate, talk to the coach or first aid attendant (this is a continual theme in this article, because getting advice from a professional is a much better and safer route than the let’s try and work through it and see what happens. There are literally thousands of ex-athletes out there who wish they would have erred on the side of caution, and ended up having to quit playing the sport they love. With moderate pain the suggestion may still be to see a doctor, but the usual course of action by the doctor is a short term prescription for the pain, and exercises to increase the muscle tone. In more severe cases of moderate pain, they may suggest a rest, with hot then cold compresses or towels to manually swell and shrink the muscle/ Think of it as a very slow and gentle massage, because that is basically how it works. One of the other great ways to deal with this sort of moderate pain is with a TENS machine. I am sure that you have seen these on late night TV often advertised by Dr. Ho. A TENS machine is a small machine that attaches to your skin with various pads, to send a gentle pulse of electricity into the muscle and once again simulate movement without actually having to move.

Finally, dealing with light arm pain or muscle fatigue, this is generally caused by tight or stressed muscles, and after a solid workout on the field, can be felt for days after. Believe it or not, one of the best ways of dealing with this sort of pain is with movement. Stretch the muscles, use cold and heat, liniments or massage oils, or even a TENS machine to help limber up. Sometimes a hot bath or shower before play and a cold one after, can help make a world of difference with the smaller pains associated with muscle tension and stress.

With all muscle pain though; be sure to keep track of your symptoms, and what you do to help them. Never use equipment not cleared by your doctor, or you can make things worse, and NEVER EVER use prescriptions that aren’t made specifically for you. The number of people that get sick, get addicted and die from misused prescriptions is staggering. Taking those kind of chances with your health are unwarranted. But the best advice we can give you is to listen to your body, don’t overdo it, and go see a professional for any severe or progressing pain immediate. What we are offering here is suggestions based on years of play, but they cannot equate to an actual doctors diagnosis, so if you have any doubt, see your physician.

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