Injured? Get the Care You Need
Say you slip while running and when you try to catch yourself, your shoulder pops. It doesn’t hurt much, so you think it’ll heal in a few days with self-treatment (think: ice, rest, bandages or self-medicating). Days become weeks and suddenly your shoulder is so painful you can’t sleep. When you finally visit the military treatment facility, you find out your simple injury is something more. If you could go back in time, would you consider seeking treatment earlier?
Why is it important to seek treatment?
Service members operate under unique pressures that cause concern about seeking treatment. Know that seeking treatment doesn’t have to affect your job, cause a med board or make you nondeployable. An overuse injury (such as lower back or wrist pain) is not just “part of the job.”
Seeking treatment is the best thing to do for yourself and your buddies who depend on you to be at your best. If you treat a physical injury when it happens, you will often heal faster than trying to tough it out or lean on substances to combat the pain.
What is the risk of not seeking treatment?
Musculoskeletal injuries are the biggest health problem in the U.S. military. They can cause limited duty days, affect readiness and your deployability. When taking ibuprofen doesn’t help the pain, prescription drug misuse isn’t the answer.
Taking a prescription drug not prescribed to you can have negative health impacts. It may mean you are not using the medication your body needs to recover. Misused prescription drugs may also interact with another medication you’re taking or cause you to pop positive on a unit drug test.
Be prepared and avoid misuse
You can prevent some injuries by being prepared. Check out these tips:
- Follow safety instructions and use appropriate equipment. For example, if lifting heavy equipment is part of your duties, learn ways to lift properly.
- Build up muscle and endurance slowly. Increase your running or lifting by no more than 10 percent each week.
- Support your joints. Make sure not to neglect the smaller muscles and muscle groups that are essential to stabilizing your shoulders, hips, back and knees.
- Balance your workouts between aerobic, strength, endurance, agility and balance exercises.
- Treat your body right. Maintain your weight, get enough sleep, eat healthy and drink enough water.
- Stop an activity if it causes pain. Talk with your health care provider if certain exercises or job-related activities cause discomfort or pain.
- Own your limits on alcohol. Waking up sober and rested protects you from unwanted injury during training or work activities.
- Quit all forms of tobacco (including e-cigarettes). The nicotine in tobacco products slows down blood flow and healing.
If you aren’t sure about an injury or you need medical advice, talk to your health care provider or contact the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line.