“How to beat aches and pains if you’re a firefighter”
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
The image of the firefighter was burned into the consciousness of all Americans after 9/11.
It was probably the first time that people of all persuasions recognized the courage as well as the physical demands of the firefighting profession. Being a firefighter is a rewarding and satisfying career. But being a professional firefighter can also lead to PAIN!
Being a firefighter is a set up for neck pain. The long hours spent lifting and carrying equipment... along with the driving you often need to do can lead to neck strain. This causes muscle aches in the neck and shoulders. You can also get headaches. So what do you do? Well, first, recognize that this is going to happen if you don’t take frequent breaks particularly if you hold your head in one position for a long time. It’s a good idea to stretch before and after your chores. Also, if you sling a bag over your shoulder for your equipment and supplies... this can lead to neck pain. Distribute the weight over both shoulders or make more trips.
Try to avoid heavy loads altogether if you have a neck problem. Obviously not practical for most. So... make sure neck strengthening exercises are a part of your fitness program. And speaking of fitness, you owe it to yourself to be in the best physical shape possible. Go above and beyond what is expected. If you have a heavy load, try making more trips instead of trying to haul everything all at once.
Your shoulders can also hurt. When you work with your arms held in one position… and especially if you work with your arms above shoulder level, you can run into a problem called impingement syndrome. This is when your rotator cuff tendons get pinched. It’s a common problem. Specific stretching exercises for the shoulder before and after you do any type of activity that requires arm movement should help. Also, make sure you take frequent breaks. Ice packs after you work sometimes help with the pain as do over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines.
Elbow pain is a common problem after any type of repetitive arm motion. Doing any type of repetitive activity can lead to painful condition called lateral epicondylitis. This is a type of tendonitis that affects the outside part of the elbow. Stretching before you work can help as can stretching and ice after you work. Anti-inflammatory medicines, an elbow band, and physical therapy also can help. Do not get a cortisone injection! This injection may help with the pain short term but it weakens tendon tissue. Instead, get an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP). This is a concentrate of blood that contains many platelets. Platelets are cells that are loaded with growth and healing factors. PRP will help with pain and will rebuild damaged tendon tissue.
Hand and wrist pain is another common problem. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the median nerve into the hand gets pinched. This causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand. Treatment consists of physical therapy, a splint, and sometime injecting with steroid. In some instances, surgery is required. Different forms of tendonitis can also develop after using your hands and wrists. You can get trigger finger where the finger seems to stick. A painful tendonitis of the thumb can also be a result of repetitive activity.
Low back pain can come on from standing too long in one place or by lifting and carrying heavy articles. Make sure you lift with your legs. You may need to go down on one knee before you lift. Keep your back straight and your head up. Test the item you’re going to lift before you lift it. Don’t twist. Stretch before you work and also afterward. Use ice packs if you strain your back. Over the counter medication can sometimes help also. See your doctor if the pain is severe or doesn’t go away within a day or two.
If it’s going to be chilly and you are going to work outside, use hand warmers. You can get these at most camp supply stores.
Jumping... especially if you jump onto hard surfaces from heights can cause a tremendous amount of stress on the low back, hips, and knees. Learn the techniques that will lessen the impact loading on these areas. Remember the slogan, “Practice safe sex”? You need to practice safe jumping. Knee pain can result if you’re not careful when you squat. Be careful not to go down too long or with too much weight. Walking on uneven ground can also hurt your knees. Sitting in the truck can lead to a stiff low back, hips, or knees... or all three!
Make sure you stretch. Moist heat can help loosen things up. Acute injuries though should be treated with ice!
Wear comfortable shoes to protect your ankles and feet. If you have chronic foot pain you may need to wear orthotics (inserts that help support your feet).
Get more information about arthritis and related conditions as well as...
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• The stiff penalties you face if you ignore this type of hip pain...
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Click here Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
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