If it is due to a traumatic incident it is best to call for medical assistance as you need to ascertain if anything is broken.
This following advice is meant as a guide and you should seek advice for your particular problem.
Assuming it is due to an unguarded movement (by that we mean the muscles didn’t support your joint) the best thing to do is get a flexible ice pack over the painful joint. This must be wrapped in a thin cloth to protect the skin from a burn. The length of time depends on the depth of the joint.
As a general rule do 10 mins for neck, upper back and limbs and 20 mins for lower back. Try to apply 3-4x a day, mainly from mid morning onwards. You will probably feel best having a hot shower in the morning to loosen the overnight stiffness.
The next important thing to do is stay mobile on a regular basis if possible. This may be difficult to do initially. However as you move you will inhibit pain, so start gently and gain flexibility slowly. Do not test your movement in the direction of pain, as it will only aggravate your condition.
You would as a general rule benefit by going into the pain free direction. Please note with sciatica due to a disc prolapse you go into the direction that reduces leg pain even it the back aches a little. Please see the section on sciatica for further information.
Take a look in a full length mirror at yourself and see if the following applies to you.
A commonly seen aberrant posture in clinic is one where your foot is turned out, the arm on the same side is held slightly flexed at the elbow and is rotated inwards so that you can see more of the back of the hand than the other side when looking face on. The same shoulder will also be held forwards. Typically this is due to weakness of the anti-gravity muscles down one side of the body and is a milder presentation than Pyramidal Weakness found in some typical stroke patients.
The anti-gravity postural muscles hold the shoulder back and rotate the arm outwards. They also lift the leg and foot from the floor. Commonly this pattern of weakness leads to rotator cuff problems, tennis elbow, hip pain, shin splints etc. If you have had any of these problems or get them repeatedly despite having had treatment then you possibly have a functional weakness of a relay area in the brain called the Ponto-Medullary-Reticular-Formation or PMRF for short.
You can have as much Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Osteopathy or whatever other therapy you like, but if the weakness is established the problem will keep recurring. Why? Because the brain will keep pulling you into the poor posture. If you are exercising and getting stronger you will have less symptoms, but push it hard and you’ll be likely to get your injury again. This is because the area in the brain will fatigue one side faster than the other and your control will diminish. The result, yet another injury. Just think how many sports people have struggled through their careers with hard to treat injuries. The list is endless.
By specifically treating to enhance function in this area we can help to restore normal function. If we combine this with visual exercises we can help to hard wire the pathways to strengthen them. This requires repeated stimulation over a short period to get the nerves to express genes that lead to growth of new connections. It won’t happen without repetition.
So if you’ve ever had a car accident or a whiplash type injury from sports such as horse riding, skiing, boarding and obviously boxing then you may be prone to these problems. If you’ve ever had a concussion or been knocked out the chances of this are significantly increased.
Make sure you find someone who can look at these patterns to help you for the longer term and not just a quick fix.