Overzealous exercising, stemming from New Year’s resolutions can result in injury during this early part of the year. Exercising is exciting, but going from little or no exercise to a vigorous regimen can set the stage for developing injuries. Addressing injuries and chronic pain the smart way can help you stay active!
Preventing chronic sports injuries
First and foremost, injury prevention is key. Overdoing it, lifting weights that are too heavy, too lengthy runs, unfamiliarity with gym equipment, and using poor technique or posture are some of the frequent causes of injuries. Working with a trainer who can supervise your form and educate you on proper use of equipment, as well as safe, effective exercises to achieve your goals is a wise idea. For instance, instruction in swing mechanics is important, especially for the amateur golfer because the various swing positions put significant stress on the lower back. Amateur golfers generate 80% more torque and shear loads during the swing than professionals. Golfers also tend to have high rates of shoulder injury usually affecting the non-dominant shoulder, due to the positioning in the backswing. Cross training and core strength is also encouraged for a stronger game.
Navigating new or chronic injuries
Many sports injuries and cumulative traumas over the years can cause damage to the ligaments, tendons and cartilage. (See Figure 1.) Whether you are playing golf or tennis, riding your bike or running on the beach, the repetitive low-grade impact from athletic events can be enough to damage the soft tissues. Degeneration can occur when these soft tissue injuries (non-healed injuries) are not fully addressed. Degenerated tissue needs regeneration. Modern treatments like Prolotherapy, Platelet Rich Plasma, and Stem Cell Therapy are natural injection techniques that can play an important role in repairing tissue damage, including the cartilage, caused by sports injuries.
When pain occurs with adding in new exercises or ramping up the workout loads, some people try to “work through the pain,” thinking it will eventually go away. The repeated injury, in addition to the use of poor form, puts strain on the joints. Overuse injuries are one of the most common injuries physicians see, and may result in such injuries as tendonitis, because the repetitive activity aggravates the tendon, as well as the surrounding ligaments. (See Figure 2.) It is common to experience muscle soreness after working out, but continued joint pain is not normal. Joint pain indicates tissue damage from the ligaments and tendons.
Are you still icing injuries?
Stop it! The icing myth has long been debunked yet people continue to reach for an ice pack when joint pain starts. The body needs good blood flow to repair, which is encouraged through heat, such as a hot tub. Ice counters this effect, actually working against the normal healing mechanisms of the body. (See Figure 3.)
Muscles versus ligaments
Muscles have an excellent blood supply and heal quickly, if injured. Ligaments do not, however; and are just as important for stabilizing the joints. They hold joints together and allow the muscles to contract against a stable base for maximum power. Joint instability from ligament weakness can therefore lead to muscle spasms, as the muscles are continuously engaged in order to stabilize the joint. Ligament weakness is not addressed by traditional sports medicine, which focuses primarily on muscles. (See Figure 4.) These modalities may provide quick, short-term pain relief, but do not repair other soft tissue injuries, such as stretched or torn ligaments, tendons, or cartilage. Chronic joint pain generally points to ligament weakness, not muscle weakness, and calls for a stronger treatment modality.
Preventing future arthritis
The majority of sports injuries that lead to symptomatic osteoarthritis in later years are those that occur to the ligaments and cause joint instability. This allows for abnormal wear and tear on the cartilage, which can actually be worsened by the use of corticosteroid injections. An even more dangerous combination is a steroid injection and then returning to sports. (See Figure 5.) The body, in a homeostatic attempt to stabilize hypermobility and protect joint structures, responds by depositing calcium along lines of stress, producing bone spurs. To avoid accelerated joint degeneration, avoid cortisone injections.
The key to keeping joints strong and pain-free is to actually stimulate the area to heal. Prolotherapy is the Regenerative Injection Treatment choice for sports-related pain for all joints. It offers long term pain relief and joint restoration by repairing damaged ligaments and soft tissue, allowing the athlete to continue sports. (See Figure 6.) If you’ve injured yourself with a new sport, or are a regular exerciser with an old injury and you want to continue to play golf or tennis or go biking, running or walking, you still can! Regenerative options allow a safe, quick return to sports.