Participation in sports or an exercise regimen is critical in maintaining your health. Exercise strengthens your heart, bones, and joints, reduces stress, and improves your cognitive and emotional well being. Unfortunately, sports and exercise injuries are all too common. Such injuries are especially common among those who are just beginning a sport, those who don’t use proper safety equipment, and those who become overzealous about a new exercise regimen.
The more commonly injured areas of the body are the ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows, and spine. Remember that you should discuss any exercise program with your doctor of chiropractor before undertaking such activities.
Strains and Sprains
Most sports injuries don’t result in broken bones, but in damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Tendons attach muscles to bones, and ligaments attach one bone to another.
An acute twisting or overextension of a joint can lead to tears of muscles and tendons, called “strains,” while tears of ligaments result in “sprains.” These tears range from mild to severe. Severe injuries, where there is a tear through the full thickness of the structure, are most often considered ‘unstable injuries,’ frequently requiring surgical intervention. Intervertebral discs (ligaments between the vertebrae of the spine that function as shock absorbers) can also be torn, resulting in disc herniation.
Ankle sprains most often involve tears of one or more of the ligaments along the outside of the ankle. Knee ligaments, including the larger external supportive ligaments and the smaller internal stabilizing ligaments, are also subject to tears. In addition, the cartilage on the back of the patella (kneecap) can become eroded from overuse, leading to a condition termed chondromalacia patella.
Among those who over train, stressed joints can become painfully inflamed and even lose mobility. Such injuries are called “overuse syndromes.” Tendinosis, also called tendinitis, in which tendons becomes inflamed from repetitive use, is one of the most common overuse injuries. When the shoulder rotator cuff (a complex of muscles that stabilizes and moves the shoulder) becomes inflamed, the result is rotator cuff tendinitis. Tennis elbow is another form of tendinitis that develops along the outside of the elbow. By contrast, in golfer’s elbow, the tendons on the inside of the elbow are affected.
When an otherwise healthy bone is subjected to excessive strain, an athlete can experience a stress fracture, also known as a fatigue structure. This can occur if a runner increases distance too rapidly while training for a race. The same would apply to someone who begins a running regimen without gradually building strength and endurance.
Another common injury is shin splints. This ‘overuse injury’ is caused by microfractures on the front surface of the tibia (shin bone). This is most often experienced by runners, though other athletes are also at risk.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Sports injuries are diagnosed based on the specific trauma or repetitive activity that brought on the pain. After a thorough physical examination an x-ray may be necessary to rule out a fracture. In addition, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diagnostic ultrasound can be used to locate soft-tissue injuries, like tendinitis and sprains.
Fractures require the application of some stabilizing device, such as a cast, after the bone is set. There is a relatively standard treatment protocol for most other sports injuries.
This includes the following –
Most injuries require no more than 48 hours of rest and/or immobilization. In most cases, the sooner you become active after an injury, the more rapid your recovery. In fact, long-term immobilization generally impedes recovery. Your chiropractor will help you determine the best times to phase in different kinds of physical activity for the safest, most rapid and long-lasting recovery.
Ice or heat
Your chiropractor will also inform you when and how best to use ice or heat to reduce pain and swelling.
Compression of the area may reduce the amount of swelling from the injury. Your chiropractor will determine if this will be beneficial in your case.
Elevation of an injured arm or leg above the level of the heart can help reduce swelling.
Our nation is experiencing a tragic epidemic of pain medication prescription abuse. Recent research shows that even over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may actually slow the healing process by restricting the body’s natural healing mechanisms. All pain medications should be used with the utmost caution.
Research also demonstrates that joint manipulation can be helpful with sports-related injury pain reduction and recovery. Your chiropractor will determine if this procedure is safe and advisable in your case.
A Word about Prevention
We are dedicated to educating our patients on how to prevent sports injuries and establish optimal health. Proper conditioning, including warm-up / cool-down procedures, and the appropriate use of safety equipment, can substantially reduce injuries. Sufficient water intake is also an important preventive measure.