Most people hear the words “physiotherapy” and “rehab” and think it’s for those recovering from broken bones or a serious injury or accident. Yes, physiotherapy has a huge role to play in post-injury and post-accident recovery but that’s not the only time one needs it. With more and more people turning to an active lifestyle and taking up activities ranging from long distance running to dancing, from yoga to CrossFit, the need for good sports physiotherapy and sports medicine experts is growing in India.
Just like automobiles, even the best ones, require regular servicing to continue performing at the highest level, our body, muscles and joints also require regular maintenance to be able to improve and remain injury-free. “Rehabilitation and recovery have a huge role to play in today’s world as far as sports is concerned,” says Ashutosh Nimse, a sports medicine consultant at the Centre for Sports Science and Rehabilitation at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai in Mumbai.
Just like sports and fitness have evolved since the turn of the century, rehab and recovery science have also undergone a sea change. One of the biggest changes to happen in sports rehabilitation is a shift from the biomedical approach to more of a biopsychosocial approach. Recent evidence pertaining to rehabilitation in sports not only considers the tissue healing and strength, but it also ensures the psychological readiness of a person to return to sport.
Sports rehabilitation has become more collaborative with multiple professionals (physiotherapists, sports physicians, sports surgeons, strength and conditioning specialists, coaches, etc.) working together to help athletes’ achieve thier goals and improve performance, says Nimse. To cite an extreme example, just look at the Danish and Manchester United footballer Christian Eriksen, who suffered a heart attack while playing a game at the Euro 2020. He was out of the game for a few months but has made full recovery and is now playing again at the highest level of professional football. But, it’s not just professional athletes who benefit from the advancements and better understanding of sports medicine and recovery science.
According to Nimse, “Anybody who is active or not active, would require some form of recovery on a regular basis. Imagine a person having an active lifestyle but having poor postural habits, their muscle flexibility and strength, and joint mobility would be restricted and would have a detrimental effect in the long run. They may have pains and aches due to faulty posture. These individuals would definitely need expert advice and intervention.”
Recreational athletes and weekend warriors are usually exposed to high levels of physical and mental load but they often don’t get optimal recovery or rehabilitation support, say experts. Some of the therapies that can be used even by these active recreational people are use of active recovery methods such as foam rolling, stretching or flexibility exercises, aqua therapy or pool flexibility exercises. “Sports massage is another therapy that can offer relaxation and recovery from fatigue, and enhance performance by reducing the muscle tightness and improving muscle force generating ability,” suggests Nimse.
Sports massage or a deep tissue massage is very common and is very essential for addressing any muscle tissue tightness, breakdown of any tissue adhesions, and regain joint mobility and tissue flexibility. Research has shown that sports massages help athletes recover physically and mentally, and improve athletic performance by reducing fatigue and enhancing the ability to generate optimal muscle force.
For fitness enthusiasts and recreational athletes, regular recovery sessions with a sports physiotherapist go a long way in helping you beat niggles, pains, injuries, stiffness and achieve your goals and see results more efficiently and with a lot less pain. Various recovery techniques have become popular which help reduce fatigue and enhance performance, he adds. Some of the more common techniques used by athletes are hydrotherapy, active recovery, stretching, compression garments and sports massage. “Recent research suggests that utilising these recovery techniques may enhance acute athletic performance and reduce injury risk. Use of ice bath or aqua therapy is [one of the] most common forms of recovery techniques that athletes use to help them recover from any delayed onset muscle soreness or aches and pains,” adds Nimse.
Another effective recovery tool is compression garments. From compression socks and sleeves to hi-tech compression therapy systems such as Normatec compression leg recovery system, there are options for you to pick as per your budget and needs. These compression garments offer a passive compression and relaxation of the muscle tissue and create an increased blood flow and removal of waste metabolites allowing optimal recovery.
Sports medicine experts and fitness coaches say that even a common person can undergo a full body screening to understand their musculoskeletal health and plan appropriately. “It is very advisable to seek opinion from a professional sports physiotherapist who can help identify various impairments, flexibility issues, or muscle imbalances, and create an individualised exercise program to address these issues,” notes Nimse.
It is better to seek advice at an early stage before the symptoms appear. Physiotherapists can help you identify the potential risk factors thereby preventing any risk of injury or a musculoskeletal health condition. People can also benefit by having regular manual therapy by a trained physiotherapist, which can improve muscle length and flexibility thereby reducing joint stiffness and allow optimal recovery at a tissue level.