How Athletes Can Manage Chronic Conditions

It’s estimated that approximately 133 million Americans deal with some kind of chronic condition or disease. It’s hard enough for the average person to manage symptoms and live with some sense of normalcy. When you’re an athlete, the stakes are raised. The last thing you want is for a condition to put you on the sidelines or keep you from doing what you love.

Athletes depend on strength and stamina — two things that can be negatively impacted by a chronic condition. Sometimes, it can feel next to impossible to deal with the symptoms of a condition when you’re trying to stay in shape or perform at top levels.

So, how can you handle a chronic condition when you’re into MMA or when you consider yourself to be an athlete? Let’s look at a few of the most common conditions you might face, and how you can work through the challenges they can often present.

Chronic Leg Ulcers

Most people think of poor vein circulation and varicose veins as problems people with sedentary lifestyles have to deal with. While that’s partially true, athletes can also be at risk. Everything from genetics to weight, and even regular athletic stress can contribute to improper vein circulation.

That can cause a variety of conditions if you’re an athlete, including chronic leg ulcers. Some of the symptoms include:

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  • Swollen ankles
  • Discoloration of the skin around the ulcer
  • Heavy-feeling legs
  • Aching legs

Chronic leg ulcers can be painful and can keep you from working out or training the way you really want to. Thankfully, they can be managed in several different ways so you don’t constantly have to put up with the pain. Some of the best pain management techniques for leg ulcers include wearing compression stockings over the area to increase blood flow and putting your feet up as much as possible. Staying active can help, but make sure you’re not over-training, or you could make the problem worse.

Certain medications can also help with chronic leg ulcers, so talk to your doctor if the problem persists or if it’s too painful to train.

Dietary Issues/Eating Disorders

As an athlete, you probably already know the importance of a healthy diet. What you eat as an MMA fighter is probably going to be different from what a marathon runner eats. The right diet is crucial to performing well and keeping your body in top shape.

Unfortunately, for some, sticking to the right diet isn’t always easy. You might start to see results from a specific meal plan, so you take things to extremes. This is more of a mental condition than a physical one. But, eating disorders of any kind can end up causing harm to your body, and even increase your risk of developing serious problems.

Eating disorders are more common in athletes than you might think. You might think that lower body weight will improve your performance, or that your particular sport requires a certain type of physique.

If you’re constantly thinking about food to the point of obsession, it’s important to recognize that isn’t healthy. If you’re ashamed of your body, or you know you’re not eating the way you should, it’s important to get help immediately. Eating disorders are often treated through:

  • Individual or group therapy
  • Medical monitoring
  • Counseling
  • Nutrition education

You know your body better than anyone, especially as an athlete. If you’re starting to notice signs of an eating disorder, don’t be ashamed. Get help now, before those thoughts start to take over and destroy what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Chronic Pain

It’s not uncommon for athletes to feel pain now and then – especially as a fighter. But, there’s a big difference between muscle pain from a fight or training session and chronic pain.

Chronic pain can be unbearable.

Unfortunately, millions of people deal with it every day. If you’re one of them, it can completely take you out of training and fighting until you’re able to manage it.

Chronic pain can manifest almost anywhere, causing headaches, muscle aches, lower back pain, or even nerve pain. It can affect people of all ages, and can sometimes make it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

If there’s one “bright spot” in so many people dealing with chronic pain, it’s that there are many ways to manage it. Taking good care of your body is the best place to start. Try to live as normally as possible and do the things that make you happy every day. To remain in fighting condition, try things like massage therapy, meditation, or yoga. Many people have found success using cannabis for chronic pain to manage symptoms and find relief. You can go the natural route or talk to your doctor about medications that might help.

These obviously aren’t the only chronic conditions athletes face. But, this should give you a picture of how serious certain conditions can be. Don’t wait until you’re in so much pain or under mental distress to get help. Most chronic conditions are manageable if you’re willing to put in the effort.


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