As anyone who plays sports or exercises knows, some degree of pain and injury come with an active life. There is normal muscle soreness after exertion that lets you know your muscles are growing and strengthening. However, pushing ourselves too far can cross the line from soreness to nagging injury. Part of playing sports is knowing when an injury can be worked through and when you need to back off to let yourself heal. Some chiropractors, like Dr French, have extra training in sports injuries, and can help diagnose your pain, and can often treat your injury without surgery, getting you back to activity as soon as possible.
We can categorize injuries in any sport by the type of tissue causing the pain. Each sport has some injuries that are more common than others. I will try to cover as much as possible, but if you would like me to include something, or you have a question, feel free to contact me.
Types of sports injuries
The most common tissue to be injured in sports is your muscles. A strain, or a pulled muscle, occurs when a muscle is asked to do more than it is capable of doing at that time. It may get overworked because it is tired at that moment, or because your body positioning (posture) was incorrect and the muscle was trying to work in a sub-optimal direction. Luckily, since they are injured easily, muscle strains are the fastest healing type of injury. As long as they are not re-injured while they are healing, they should get better within a week or so. If a muscle injury is lasting longer, there is likely something that is aggravating the injury. Whether that is continued stress from activity or a movement error that needs to be corrected, a proper diagnosis is key.
Tendons attach the muscle to the bone to allow it to move. Tendon injuries, sometimes called tendonosis or tendonitis, come from similar problems as muscle strains. One difference is that tendons do not have a very good blood supply, so they can take longer to heal.
Ligaments attach bones to each other. When a joint moves too far through its range of motion, it can stretch the ligaments and cause a sprain. This can occur from a fall, and can also result from a muscle failing to contract hard enough to protect the joint. For this reason, muscle strains and ligament strains can often occur at the same time. Rest, protection of the area, and ice therapy are good early treatments for sprains.
You can also fracture or bruise a bone. Other tissues can compress or irritate a nerve, or a fall can stretch a nerve directly. Bursae are lubricating sacs that protect a bone from the rubbing of tendons passing over them. Too much rubbing can cause these sacs to get inflamed, called bursitis.
Most of these sports injuries can be treated naturally by chiropractors, whether they occur in the back or not. While this short list makes up the types of tissues that can cause pain from sports injuries, different sports stress the body in different ways. Let’s look at some sports and talk about some common injuries in each.
Sport specific injuries
Running, as a sport, or as a part of another sport, primarily stresses the lower body and feet. Plantar fasciitis is a type of ligament injury that happens when the bottom of the foot stretches farther than it should. Fallen arches is a common cause. Shin splints is a muscle and tendon overuse injury that happens in the lower legs. Again, too much movement in the arch, from flat feet, or incorrect shoes can cause this condition. As we move up the leg, pain in the gluteal and sacroiliac region is common in runners. Due to the repetitive nature of running, small restrictions in the joints can cause a lot of pain if they result in an alteration to your gait. Chiropractors can use adjustments to repair these restriction in the joints, and allow you to run more correctly.
Swimming is a great full body sport that requires strength and coordination of all four limbs and your core. Many injuries from swimming center around the shoulders. Swimming can overdevelop the pectoral muscles and neglect the muscle between the shoulder blades resulting in swimmer’s posture. This is characterized by a forward shoulder posture with arms rotated inward. Since this type of posture squeezes the tunnel that the rotator cuff passes through, it is important to work to avoid this to keep the rotator cuff healthy. Chiropractors can use adjustments and recommend exercises to counteract this tendency that all serious swimmers face.
The golf swing uses the whole body to generate force, starting at the feet, through the spine, to the arms. Because the spine is the center of the swing, flexibility and strength is extremely important to play well, and to avoid injury. I wrote an article on posture and golf, since that is the first step to a quality, safe swing.
But what happens when your swing causes an injury? The first step is to reduce the inflammation with ice and rest. After that, it is a good idea to have your spine aligned by a chiropractor. If the joints in the spine are not moving correctly, the rotational forces generated when playing golf can increase your chances of overstressing the muscles and ligaments.
When I think about injuries associated with tennis, the elbow and forearm come to mind. Tennis elbow is an inflammation of the forearm tendons where they attach to the bone. If you can catch it early, allow the tendon to heal, and fix the thing that caused the inflammation (usually overtraining or incorrect grip), it can heal quickly. If you ignore it and it becomes chronic, tennis elbow can be difficult to get rid of. One aspect that is often ignored is the mobility in the wrist bones. A chiropractor can evaluate the way the joints of the wrist move and can adjust them if necessary. I find that if the wrist becomes tight, maybe from too much computer or phone time, it forces the forearm muscles to work harder and can lead to pain. Kinesiotape is another option for muscle and tendon injuries.
Can a chiropractor help with sports injuries?
Yes. Chiropractic is a great option for sports injuries. Medications cover up the pain and can make the injury worse by allowing you to play while injured. Chiropractic treatment generally takes less time and works faster than physical therapy, allowing you to get back to sports faster. If you are in the Norwalk area, and have a sports injury, we would be happy to help diagnose the issue and get you on the road to recovery. Contact us with questions, or click below to make an appointment.