This article has been divided into two parts with this first part being an introduction to the sports injuries and the next part will feature common types of injuries and how each is treated differently.
Sports injuries are common but preventable. Risk can be minimized by warming up before any physical activity; this increases blood flow to the muscles and loosens up the body. It’s also important to stop an activity when you reach the point of fatigue; muscle fatigue takes away the body’s protective mechanisms and increases the risk of injury.
Overuse injuries are common when you throw yourself into an activity you haven’t done in a while. Get the relevant muscles used to working again by doing lighter exercises for the first few weeks. For instance, if you’re training for the Beijing Marathon, it’s advisable to increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent per week.
Usually, sports injuries are mild or moderate, and can be treated at home for the most part. The PRICE method is a self-help method recommended by many doctors:
P – Protect from further injury using a splint, pad, or crutch
R – Restrict activity and rest to prevent worsening of the injury
I – Apply ice, which works as an anti-inflammatory and helps
C – Apply compression with an elastic bandage to help reduce
E – Elevate the injured area above the heart to help reduce
Professional help is needed for more severe sprains or strains, especially if it’s a first-time injury. When left untreated, the soft tissue remains weak and unstable so there’s a higher risk of re-injury, which can lead to chronic instability. Once you get to that stage, it’s hard to recover 100 percent use of the injured area without surgery
East Vs. West
Conventional western medicine treatments include ultrasound therapy, in which high-frequency ultrasonic waves are moved over the skin in the region of the injury, transmitting the energy into the tissues.
Interferential electro-therapy uses a form of electrical current administered at the site of a soft tissue injury, simulating the body’s natural healing process by helping it to produce pain-killing endorphins. Electro-therapy also helps release of strains, spasms, and issues with soft tissue.
Physiotherapy uses massage, manipulation, and special exercises to improve range of motion, regain strength and flexibility, and return normal function to the injured area. Massage involves the repetitive rubbing, stripping, or kneading of muscles and other soft tissues, whereas manipulation involves manual pressure or force being move muscles and tissues. Once clinical treatment is over, the patient must continue with special exercises at home to prevent further damage and reduce the risk of re-injury.
Alternatively, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – particularly acupuncture – is routinely used to treat sports injuries. There’s usually some form of qi and blood stagnation (manifested as pain or bruising), possibly complicated by dampness (manifested as fluid retention) in a localized area and in the affected channels and collaterals. In TCM, the channels refer to the pathways of qi and blood. These pathways are interconnected with each other via collaterals, forming a network that unites the body as a whole.
Treatments such as acupuncture, moxibustion, and massage each have a role to play in healing sports injuries. Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific pressure points along the body through penetration of the skin by thin needles or the application of heat or pressure.
Moxibustion is the burning of mugwort – a small, spongy herb – to facilitate healing. In direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned over the skin. Indirect moxibustion uses both acupuncture needles and moxa.
TCM massage, such as tuina, can work directly on muscle groups, joints, and sites of pain. The practitioner uses palms, thumbs, fingers, and elbows to apply gentle to firm pressure, and may incorporate stretches. TCM massage can also work the same meridians and points used in acupuncture. TCM stresses the view that most sports injuries are the result of misplacements of bones and soft tissues, and these misplacements should be corrected through manipulation.
For both western medicine and TCM diagnoses, injuries are classified as acute or chronic. Acute injuries occur suddenly when playing sport or exercising, whilst chronic injuries happen after you play a sport or exercise for a long time. This diagnosis will impact recommended treatment options and determine what type of injury was sustained. Treatment depends on whether the injury is “direct” (caused by the impact of an external force, resulting in bruising, internal bleeding, muscle strain, or ligament sprain) or “indirect” (caused by excessive twisting, bending, or overstraining).
This article originally appeared on p24-25 of the September 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here.To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Courtesy of Dongwen, Promotion Physio (flickr)