The treating sports injuries is a complex and multi layered challenge. Athletes are subject to injuries either as they train for an event, or during actual competition itself. While injuries during a competition may get more attention, the injuries during training can cost an athlete their dreams or their livelihood.
The injury that occurs during a competition is often rare but it is usually public. It elicits sympathy from fellow competitors and if present spectators. The training injuries are often more personal, more heartbreaking and the athlete often feels the weight of these injuries in isolation.
Sports Injuries during training require special evaluation. Professional teams have experts on hand to quickly determine the proper course of action and treatment often begins immediately. The individual athlete, on the other hand, may be confused about what type of professional to seek for sports injury rehab following an injury. There may be a delay in treatment as the athlete tries to determine “if it will resolve on its own.” Sometimes just getting an appointment may take weeks with some types of doctors.
Unless there is a broken bone or stitches required, a sports chiropractor or certified athletic trainer is a good person to consult and determine how to deal with a sports injury and keep on track with a training regimen without risking further damage to the injured area if at all possible.
Sports injuries typically come in two categories. The first, trauma, is the most obvious and sometime the more straightforward to manage. A sprained ankle, dislocated shoulder, or torn hamstring, are all examples of trauma. Immediately after such injuries, ice is often used to decrease inflammation and control pain. An evaluation will be needed to determine how much range of motion or stretching of the area is safe for each phase of healing while it is taking place. Also during the healing phase, it is often advised to use that body part in the way it is designed to function to cause the healing tissues to align and “knit together” in the way that best duplicates the original tissue and achieve the best possible outcome and minimize the rehab or recovery time. Caution in this phase of healing is recommended to make sure you do not stress the area too much too soon.
Once the proper time has elapsed, your doctor or therapist will recommend some strengthening to decrease the chance of future injury and to increase the stability of the area. Maintaining flexibility as strength is improved is often a key objective at this point. Your rehab is complete when your body is fully functional and you are able to do most or all of your prior activities at similar levels of intensity without any pain or other complications.
The other type of sports injury, repetitive stress injuries or “overuse injuries”, are not as dramatic, but can be just as painful. They sometimes come on gradually over time as the level of training exceeds the body’s ability to recover between training sessions. Areas of weakness often show up at this point as do muscle imbalances that cause mechanical problems as the levels of training or the time spent in training increases.
It is with this form of injury that a certified sports chiropractor will shine. Repetitive stress can cause a form of scar tissue that prevents the muscles from moving freely through their full range of motion. These restrictions can cause pain or overuse of other compensating or supporting muscles. Techniques like ART and Graston are used by a knowledgable sports chiropractor to improve the function of the muscle by breaking up adhesions in the tissue that prevent complete contraction and relaxation. See the related articles below for other types of treatments that may be used and why. The services we offer in our office are listed and may be accessed by clicking here.
To make things more challenging, sometimes the pain is not at the location of the problem. Imagine one muscle to flex your elbow and another to extend it. If the muscle that flexes remains too tight, it will not allow the arm to fully extend easily or completely. We often see this in back pain issues where the muscles that lift the knees toward the chest (the hip flexors) become too tight because many of us spend too much time sitting. When they are not able to completely relax then it becomes difficult to stand fully upright (perhaps imperceptibly) and the multitude of muscles that allow us to straighten up, become overworked and go into spasm. Shoulders are notorious for having pain on the opposite side of the true problem.
Sometimes it is merely a weakness in one area that causes pain in another as the overworked tissues begin to make the injustice known. Most muscles have a specific action and the opposite action is performed by one or more other muscles. It often takes a skilled specialist to track down the area of weakness and design a rehab or strengthening program to correct the true cause of the problem.
A final word of caution: while pain medication may help to minimize discomfort, it is important to recognize that medication does little to address any of the issues discussed above and may give one the false impression that healing has occurred when it has not. Knowledge and experience are needed to ascertain when it is safe for the athlete resume a normal training schedule after receiving treatment for a sports injury.
Dr. Niklaus DelFavero is the owner of 1st Choice Sports Rehab Center, a specialized team of 10 sports chiropractors and therapists who provide care to an equally unique cross-section of patients in Decatur and Johns Creek, Georgia just outside of Atlanta. To schedule an appointment call 404-377-0011.