Sport and exercise are an important component of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are many different sports which can result in different types of injury. We can all succumb to injury, whether we are a professional sportsman, or are just interested in keeping fit. Sports therapy is designed to help in the prevention of injury, to recognise and treat it if it occurs, and to rehabilitate back to full fitness. A consultation will include assessment of the level of fitness, and advice regarding the type and level of sport or exercise which would be suitable. Joints would be tested for ease and range of movement, and any pain or difficulty examined. If an injury or issue is present, an assessment will be made to determine whether it is advisable to continue with that particular sport, or whether alternatives should be considered. A rehabilitation programme would be devised if necessary, involving appropriate therapy and treatment for the type of injury sustained. Diet and lifestyle advice will form part of this. As a preventative measure, work would be carried out to improve core stability, establish an exercise regime, and to develop an injury prevention programme.
Injuries obtained from sport and exercise are different to everyday ones. Serious athletes put a high demand upon their bodies; muscles, joints and bones are put under a lot of stress in order to achieve a high level of performance. Individuals aspiring to keep fit can also succumb to the same types of injury.
Injury can arise from
- Repetitive strain/ overuse. When an activity is undertaken too often and/or too much, for example, when playing racquet sports. Undue strain is put upon the muscles and tendons.
- Direct injury, such as a blow, resulting in bruising, swelling and muscle pain.
- Inadequate warming up or down in preparation for sport- which can result in back and neck pain, for example.
- When incorrect equipment is used, for example running in footwear not designed for this purpose.
There are many different therapies available which are able to help with maintaining fitness and able to deal with any problems arising from injury. Osteopathy can help to improve performance and treat injury. The discipline is concerned with treating disorders by using manipulation and massage to stretch and move the skeleton and muscles. A practitioner would seek to find and diagnose the problem, then help to restore the structural balance, help with joint mobility, and ease soft tissue restriction with massage. Movement will be easier and as a result, performance will improve. They can also help with suppleness and flexibility for people seeking to achieve a general level of fitness. Muscle tone would be encouraged in preparation for exertion, and general advice given about warming up and down, and pacing an exercise programme. Advice would be given concerning an exercise routine to do at home.
Chiropractors treat and help to prevent injuries in the back, shoulders, neck, knees and ankles. They use manual therapy to adjust the spine to ensure that the bones are lined up and balanced. This relieves tension in the body, making them less susceptible to injury. The goal of a chiropractor is to restore or enhance joint function and to resolve joint inflammation and as a result reduce pain. They are able to promote healing after injury. Regular visits are used to prepare the body by correcting balance and posture to help with performance and injury prevention. Prior to starting to play a new sport, a chiropractor could examine the spine and muscles in order to ascertain any imbalances and relieve tension. As a result, the muscles and bones would work correctly.
In an appointment designed to treat a problem, health would be discussed, and an examination performed to assess posture and balance, the spine, back, arms, legs, all joints and ligaments. A treatment plan would be proposed, which would include spinal manipulation and mobilization. Manipulation involves being put in different positions, and the chiropractor performing a ‘manual impulse’ to an injured joint. This results in a release of pressure in the joint, and the muscles and joints being aligned in the correct positions. A cracking sound, known as ‘cavitation’ can occur, when the gas escapes as the joint is opened. Motion is then restored in the joint. Mobilization involves the use of tools or stretches to release pressure in the joints. A chiropractor may also use ice or heat depending upon the injury, or electrical stimulation. It was demonstrated in a study that when chiropractic care is added to conventional management, there was a “significant reduction” in lower limb strain injuries, time missed as a result of knee injuries and lower back pain, and an increase in health status1.
Podiatry is concerned with pain and injuries relating to altered biomechanical function in the lower limbs and feet. A podiatrist would assess if an injury was as a result of poor structural alignment and function. Advice concerning footwear, insoles, orthotics, padding and taping would be given, and how to stretch, strengthen and run correctly. They are able to assess and treat a wide variety of conditions, including overuse injuries, shin splints and hip pain.
Podiatrist examining gait of a patient
Physiotherapy is the discipline most commonly thought of to help deal with injury. The techniques involve massage and manipulation exercises designed to improve the range of movement, help to strengthen muscles and to restore health. Often an exercise programme is individually tailored, and involves them being practiced at home. Physiotherapy is designed to encourage a healthy body as a preventative measure against injury. It can help to restore mobility, and enhance performance.
Acupuncture has been approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) in the treatment of back pain. Traditional Chinese Medicine views pain as a symptom of the body being in disharmony. It does not view the symptom in isolation, but views it in the context of the whole body. The aim is to find and treat the root of the problem, not just the branch, or symptom. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points of the body.
Depending upon the need, acupuncture can
- Encourage the flow of blood and our life force (qi).
- Stimulate drainage of fluid.
- Encourage the release of endorphins (the natural painkillers made in the body).
- Reduce inflammation.
- Decrease muscle stiffness and increase joint mobility by encouraging microcirculation. This in turn decreases any swelling, and encourages healing.
Acupuncture is an effective treatment for strains, sprains, joint and muscle pain. Studies have confirmed its effectiveness in treating patellofemoral pain syndrome (Knee pain).2 It can also be used to improve performance.
Rehab therapy is served best by a combination of different disciplines. Each will bring a different approach, viewing you as an individual, with a shared aim of promoting and maintaining an injury-free body. Any concerns or issues will be dealt with by the most suitable therapy, allowing you to regain your health and fitness and maintaining it.
Healthy people exercising
- Hoskins, W and Pollard, H ‘The Effect of a Sports Chiropractic Manual Therapy Intervention on the Prevention of Back Pain, Hamstring and Lower Limb Injuries in Semi-Elite Australian Rules Footballers: A Randomized Controlled Trial’. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2010 11:64.
- Bizzini, M, ‘Systematic Review of the Quality of Randomized Controlled Trials for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome’. Journal of Orthopaedic Therapy. 2003 33:1 p4-20.