Injuries and niggles, who hasn’t had to deal with these from time to time? At the end of the day, one can never know when and how they could strike. Just last week, a friend’s teenaged son put his hand out to save a penalty while playing football with schoolfriends in the neighbourhood park in suburban Mumbai. That innocuous act led to a broken wrist, a surgery, three wires and a cast.
A minor misstep on an easy run could very well lead to a pulled muscle or a sprain. And anyone who works out and plays some sport regularly knows activity-related niggles, muscle fatigue and soreness are a part and parcel of an active life. The good news is sports medicine and rehab science have made tremendous progress and there are plenty of treatments and therapies that can address these issues and hasten the recovery and rehab.
“Rehab methods have become more objective, in that physiotherapists and the strength and conditioning professionals can monitor the athletes' progress on a consistent basis and modify the exercise dosage as appropriate. During the rehabilitation process, the athletes nowadays use the most advanced neuromuscular electrical stimulation devices or blood flow restriction devices to enhance muscle recruitments and to promote faster gain in the strength adaptations allowing optimal recovery of the tissues,” says Ashutosh Nimse, a sports medicine consultant at the Center for Sports Science and Rehabilitation, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai.
Thanks to the recent boom in the demand for such therapies, many of these treatments, that were once only accessible to elite athletes, are now accessible for the general public too. Different mobilisation techniques are used by sports therapists that can have a positive effect on various tissues in the body. For people who suffer from pains and aches, forms of electrotherapy, such as low-level laser and shockwave treatment, or soft tissue release techniques can be used. People who lead active lives should make use of them at regular intervals as they can help them remain injury-free. It also minimises stiffness in muscles and joints, adds Nimse. Here are some of the most effective and popular interventions.
Ice compression: This proven cold compression system can help reduce the pain and swelling at a much faster rate, improve post-operative joint range of motion, reduce the consumption of medication, and can give an overall better satisfaction for the athletes.
“The most effective ice compression therapy is delivered by the game-ready cold compression unit such as the dual patient Med4 Elite, and it is the most advanced technology for recovery after any sports injury or surgery. The unit integrates ice-less cold, controllable heat, rapid contrast, and active compression therapy. This helps decrease pain and swelling, reduce medicine use, reduce joint and muscle stiffness, and increase blood flow to the affected site,” says Nimse.
Athletic taping: This is a very common and widely visible treatment in sports rehabilitation. There are various forms of taping, such as rigid taping, kinesiology taping, etc. Taping offers protection to the injured area by restricting movement there, and controlling the pain and swelling. This enables people to continue training without restrictions and even play sports. Taping, when done effectively, can be a huge morale booster and can help people to perform at their best.
Trigger point dry needling: This is an advanced intervention in which a fine or an acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin or a muscle. This helps to desensitise the hyperactive muscles or break down the tightness in the myofascial trigger points. It also creates an influx of blood flow to the area where the needle is inserted, thereby promoting healing of the tissue and also reducing pain.
Electrotherapeutic interventions: These are effective in pain relief or modulation. Electrotherapeutic interventions also reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, promote tissue healing, increase range of motion, enhance muscle activation, and decrease unwanted muscular activity. They also help in the preservation of strength after injury or surgery and reduction or elimination of oedema: a build-up of fluid that causes the affected tissue to become swollen.
Low-level laser therapy: This is used by physiotherapists to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions. The laser emits a single wavelength of light and affects the connective tissues by the mechanism of tissue repair and reduce inflammation, explains Nimse. Laser therapy is best used in acute or chronic sports injuries to reduce pain and inflammation.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy: In this treatment, commonly used by professional athletes, soundwaves that produce very high pressure at a single pulse with a wider frequency range, are used to provide a therapeutic effect. It is best used for tendinopathies and any overuse muscle tissue conditions. It promotes neovascularization (the natural formation of new blood cells) at the tendon-bone junction, and accelerates growth factors and protein synthesis to stimulate collagen production and tissue healing.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.