Painkillers are highly addictive medicines and, as such, can have detrimental effects on those who use them regularly. They can cause devastating side effects and can even be lethal in extreme circumstances. So, it is concerning that these drugs are encouraged to be taken by children or even prescribed to them at a young age. We take a look at the alternative ways of dealing with injury prevention, treatment and recovery that don’t involve the use of pain-killing drugs.
Children are often in situations where they are likely to experience an injury that is more than just a booboo on their elbow. Many of them will play sports at school in PE or at lunch time breaks, or even take part in sports clubs and acedemies outside of school. It is in these contexts where they are most at risk of developing a significant sporting injury, that often leads to a hospital visit and a prescription that could be the start of a slippery slope for our children. Sports illustrated reported last year on an uptick in opiate addiction amongst high school athletes, most of whom had been prescribed painkillers after being hurt previously. Unbelievably, a month later the Food and Drug Administration approved prescribing similar painkillers to children as young as 11!
For some children suffering from paralyzing discomfort or chronic pain, painkillers are the ideal solution for quick and effective pain relief, but for standard sporting injuries such as sprains and pains, it is important to consider alternative methods of treatment.
Prevention is the best cure
As with most things, preventing dangerous circumstances that allow injuries to occur in the first place is the best way to avoid getting hurt. From making sure a child warms up and down properly to providing them with the necessary safety equipment, there are measures that can be taken that decrease the likelihood of an accident taking place. Teaching your children about good sporting practice is a valuable lesson for them to learn about how to properly engage with sport in positive ways. In this sense, it’s a good idea to do family stretches and warm up sessions before a long walk or physical activity in order to approach the exercise in a responsible way. Parents should be particularly vigilant if their child has experienced an injury before, and take steps to avoid a repeat. They should also be patient in the recovery phase and be sure not to rush back into any strenuous activity before the injury is back to full health.
Recognising the seriousness of an injury
Understanding the degree of the injury is a key part of ensuring the affected body part gets the correct treatment as soon as possible. Adults should not over react or be dramatic about any injuries sustained by their children, as this could lead to unhealthy relationships with pain and injury from their children in the future. If there is tenderness or swelling, it might be worth nursing the injury at home and seeing if the symptoms have lessened or disappeared all together by the next day. That said, should numbness, swelling or severe pain occur, a doctor should be consulted before any further action. Parents should also be aware of common injuries that can cause a lot of pain, but can be treated through other means. For example, muscle cramps are a common injury sustained during sporting activities, but is often a sign of dehydration which can be treated relatively easily. It’s good practice to keep your children hydrated at all times and through drinking water before, during and after the activity. They might find that the water fairy works wonders and the pain goes away all by itself!
Should a more serious incident occur, it’s time for the parent to instate their first line of defence – the ‘PRICE’ method. Protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation can combat small sprains and other injuries that could avoid the inevitable 4 hour line that’s waiting for you in A&E. Learn the process, test each other and even, if Saturday nights are getting particularly dull, run practice PRICE routines to make sure your fully prepared for sprain pain relief. It sounds silly, but putting a light spin on the situation could change the way your child perceives negativity within sports and encourage them to follow their passion, despite whatever obstacle comes their way.
Another method of sporting injury treatment is through acupuncture. It might be difficult to win your child round to a stranger coming at them with a load of big, scary needles, granted, but acupuncture isn’t an uncommon way to rid injury. The natural painkiller provokes the body into releasing endorphins and other hormones into the blood, reducing inflammation and treating pain. In 2007, a National Health Statistics report found that 150,000 children used acupuncture for musculoskeletal pain. Whilst the concept may seem little short of terrifying for your little angel, it will benefit their injury in the long term and any bad memories of needles will disappear once they’re tearing around the field again.
If you’d rather not shell out for a professional sports massage, parents should utilise the resources available to them and embark upon the task themselves. There are various tutorial videos on YouTube and other sports sites that demonstrate how to perform basic massage techniques such as Effleurage. This is particularly useful for minor injuries and sprains, as it soothes and stretches the sore area whilst giving the body’s endorphins a boost at the same time. If you are in any doubt, it’s worth consulting a doctor before unleashing your new-found talents on your child, as they may take a while to forgive you should you make things worse.
As an absolute last resort, ibuprofen is usually the best painkiller to use to relieve pain for children, due to the anti-inflammatory nature of drug. Ibuprofen should feature in every first aid kit, which you undoubtedly have on your person at all times in case of injury. As with most things, fail to prepare then prepare to fail…