Participation in sports or exercise is a crucial step in maintaining your quality of life. Exercise strengthens your heart, bones, and joints and reduces stress, among many other benefits. Unfortunately, exercise related injuries are all too common. Often, these injuries derail someone’s exercise efforts, keep coming back despite episodes of rest, and take the joy out of sports.
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 chiropractic to make sure your movement quality is above standard.
Strains and Sprains
Although bones can sometimes be fractured with acute sports injuries, the most commonly injured structures are the 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,” and tears of ligaments result in “sprains.” These tears range from mild to severe. In mild injuries, just a few fibers are torn or stretched. Severe injuries, where there is a tear through the full thickness of the structure, are most often considered unstable injuries, and may require surgical intervention. The intervertebral disc, a ligament between the vertebrae of the spine that works as a shock absorber, can also be torn, resulting in a disc bulge and/or herniation. Ankle sprains most often involve tears of one or more of the ligaments along the side of the ankle. Knee ligaments, including the larger external supportive ligaments and the smaller internal stabilizing ligaments, can also be torn.
In those who are training inefficiently, overuse of a particular joint or joints in the body can result in pain and dysfunction. While these injuries are often called “overuse syndromes,” it may be best to think of them as “misuse syndromes.” A common overuse injury is tendinosis, also called tendinitis. In this condition, the tendon becomes inflamed from poor biomechanics. In the shoulder, the rotator cuff (a complex of muscles that stabilizes and moves the shoulder) becomes inflamed, resulting in rotator cuff tendinitis. “Tennis elbow” is another form of tendinitis that occurs along the outside of the elbow (common in tennis, weight lifting, bowling, and typing). In golfer’s elbow, the tendons on the inside of the elbow are affected (common with activities that require gripping and pulling).
Some athletes may experience a stress fracture, also called a fatigue fracture. This type of fracture occurs when an abnormal amount of stress is placed on a normal bone. This might occur in a runner who rapidly increases the amount of mileage while training for a race. Just like other injury patterns, stress fractures also occur in people who have biomechanical inefficiency, resulting in the repetitive overload of a bone. Additionally, shin splints is caused by inflammation and microfractures on the front surface of the tibia (shin bone). This is most often seen in runners, although other athletes can also be affected.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Sports injuries are most often diagnosed from the history of the activity that brought on the pain, along with a physical examination. In some cases, x-rays are necessary to rule out a fracture. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diagnostic ultrasound can also used in finding soft-tissue injuries, like tendinitis and sprains. Fractures require the application of some stabilizing device, such as a cast, after the bone is put back into position. Rarely, surgery is required.
Your doctor of chiropractic, as a specialist in the nerve, muscle, and joint systems, is uniquely suited to not only diagnose, but to treat many types of sports injuries. Since mechanical problems need mechanical solutions, joint manipulation, instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation, massage, rehabilitation, athletic taping, and kinesiotaping are the best treatment tools for pain reduction and a rapid recovery. Your doctor of chiropractic will determine which procedures will be helpful in your case.
In many cases, sports injuries can be prevented (check out the movement audits at DrBradCole.com). Proper warm-up/down procedures, appropriate equipment, rest, hydration, and nutrition can substantially reduce injuries. Having regular checkups with your doctor of chiropractic to check your movement quality improves your biomechanics.