Sports-Related Muscle Injuries

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Rigorous exercise and sports-related muscle injuries take their toll on our bodies, and the wear and tear from more aggressive activity happens more quickly. The typical professional athlete understands this reality first-hand. Nevertheless, safe and proper exercise is one of the best therapies for virtually every aspect of health and wellness. Even people with terminal cancer and other serious conditions live longer and better if they exercise.

Your body is a wondrous machine that can regenerate its parts after injury or damage. It can repair skinned knees, knit broken bones back together, and even regrow joint cartilage. However, that doesn’t mean your body won’t suffer pain and other lasting effects from chronic injury.

What causes sports-related chronic injury pain?

Sports-related muscle injuries often result from repetitive strains and micro-trauma associated with high-impact or repetitive movements. Most of this pain is rooted in the muscle and fascia, the tissues throughout the body connecting the muscles, tendons, and other cartilage. Contrary to what you might think, the pain does not come from scar tissue or inflammation, as most of us have been taught to understand.

Muscles acquire and accumulate pain-generating trigger points (kinks in the fascia) as the tendons anchoring the muscles develop micro-tears. Then, when the muscles contract against injured tendons, the trigger points fire by squishing harder the free nerve endings within, thereby causing more pain.

How does the body heal itself after a muscle injury?

Suppose you sprain your ankle. Some of the ligaments that hold the ankle joint together get torn or overstretched. Fortunately, the body immediately goes into action and starts the healing process.

Right after the sprain occurs, your body releases inflammatory chemicals that initiate the repair process. Release of these chemicals attracts more healing chemicals and white blood cells to the area. As a result of this tremendous healing process there is also tremendous metabolic waste and local toxicity. Fibroblast cells orchestrating the repair sense the level of toxicity and separate from each other to suck water out your veins. Your ankle swells to dilute the toxicity of the healing environment. There are several ways to accelerate the healing and reduce the swelling… ice and ibuprofen are not the best answers and are usually counterproductive.

Spurred by the combined cells and fluids, additional fibroblast cells find their way to the injury after about three days. These cells orchestrate the repair, and set the stage to rebuild and regrow the injured ligaments.

The healing process typically continues for several weeks or even months, depending on the injury and how it is treated in the first 48 hours. Broken bones and injured ligaments regain about 90% of their strength after about six weeks. Ice and anti inflammatory medicines delay and decrease healing.

What slows down healing, and how can I accelerate it?

After injury, there are some things that we think will facilitate the healing process but actually slow it down. For example, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and nicotine in the blood can slow recovery or halt it altogether. Ice is also a common remedy for reducing swelling, but in most cases, it can decelerate metabolism and healing.

If the injury is not too severe, the best way to help yourself is to let your body function naturally and give it a chance to recover. Also, you can facilitate repair if you can avoid or stop smoking and stay away from anti-inflammatory medications.

If you want to be proactive, take extra vitamin C and zinc. Studies on wounded soldiers show the importance of these nutrients in healing. Finding a holistic provider near you who offers vitamin C IV treatment may prove beneficial. You can also apply moist heat to the injured area to increase blood and nutrient supply and speed up metabolism.

Dry needling, trigger point injections, and myofascial release are usually the most rapidly effective therapies for these and similar sports injuries. If trigger point injections do not provide enough relief, the tendons and associated ligaments may also require treatment.

If I do not heal enough, what are my options?

Despite your best efforts, letting the body heal itself may not be enough to achieve full recovery. A sprain can leave you with loose joints and partially healed/torn tendons that are susceptible to future injuries. Also, if you suffer from tennis elbow, golfers’ elbow, bursitis, or plantar fasciitis, seeking treatment to treat the pain and prevent further injury is essential.

For partially healed injuries, a qualified integrative medical practitioner in Cincinnati or NYC can get your body to “restart” the healing process by re-injuring the body part and stimulating healing. This may sound unsafe, but some effective treatments and therapies using this approach can give the body a second chance to recover fully.

There are several options for retreating an injury, such as making a tiny and controlled wound with a needle technique, giving you an injection of dextrose and novocaine (prolotherapy), or injecting the injury site with your own platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Acupuncture provides the weakest body reaction and slowest healing, compared to PRP or stem cells. Once the body’s healing has restarted, fibroblast cells will emerge in about two days to start rebuilding the injured tissue.

The local regenerative medicine specialists at Blatman Health and Wellness Center have extensive experience treating various sports injuries while using the body’s natural healing processes. We combine the best nutrition and recuperative therapies to help adults and children return to optimal physical activity.

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