At Home Care for Sports Injuries
Tabassum Ali, DC, CCSP, CCCN
Managing your injury with at home care instructions from your health care provider is a great strategy. At home care for sports injuries ensures you heal at the quickest pace and the treatment you receive in the office is effective. With all of the latest research, the options for at home care for sports injuries are pretty much endless, but the real question is which one is the best for your injury. One of the most frustrating parts of being a patient is trying to manage your injury at home with ideas you found off of the Internet and from other bloggers with the same injury, but never seem to find relief yourself. In this article you will find information about different types of at home care for sports injuries that can be used for different injuries, and a main focus on foam rolling.
Ice vs. Heat vs. Contrast Therapy
Epsom Salt Baths
Stretching vs. Foam Rolling
Generally speaking, the first source of at home care for sports injuries suggested by health care providers will be applying ice or heat. It is the simplest type of at home care, with the lowest risk- meaning your chiropractor or physical therapist trusts you with this. Physiologically ice is applied to bring down inflammation in acute conditions (72 hours or less). Symptoms of inflammation:
Dilation of vessels
Heat is applied to an injury when the condition is chronic (textbook definition, anything exceeding 72 hours) or when circulation is desired. The effects of applying heat to musculoskeletal injuries are to promote blood flow and reduce stiffness of the muscle. In some chronic conditions a contrast therapy may be indicated. If this type of therapy is used, the biggest key is to begin and end treatment with ice. The main concept of contrast therapy is to flush the injured area of toxins and speed up the healing process.
Epsom salt baths are another excellent source of at home care for sports injuries and a beneficial for more than just injuries. Epsom salt has beneficial properties that can soothe the body, mind and soul. Some of the countless health benefits include:
Relaxing the nervous system
Soothing back pain and aching limbs
Drawing toxins from the body
Studies have shown that magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin, making Epsom salt baths an easy and ideal way to obtain the health benefits. Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body including reducing inflammation and helping muscle and nerve function. Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients and flush toxins.
Stretching is a great at home therapy that should be used by all patients injured or not. A good stretch regimen can easily be used as a pre-workout warm up or post-workout cool down. For the patient who works at a desk 8 hours a day or sits a majority of the day, a simple 5 minute stretch of the shoulders and hamstrings should be considered to maintain a healthy posture and prevent overuse injuries. (demonstration of stretches can be viewed on our website with links to videos)
Foam rolling has become an increasingly popular form of injury prevention and at home care for sports injuries prescribed by many health care providers, such as your chiropractor or physical therapist. Once the exercises have been fully demonstrated by your chiropractor or physical therapist, it is safe to benefit from foam rolling at home. Foam rolling should be done before static or dynamic stretching activities, improving the tissue’s ability to lengthen during stretching activities. Foam rolling activities should be performed on tissues identified as overactive during the assessment process. Foam rollers can vary in density and surface structure. This form of myofascial release focuses on soft tissue in the body that can be influenced by poor posture, repetitive motions, or dysfunctional movements.
These mechanically stressful actions are recognized as an injury by the body, initiating a repair process called the Cumulative Injury Cycle. This cycle follows a path of inflammation, muscle spasm, and the development of scar tissue that can lead to altered neuromuscular control and muscle imbalance. The scar tissue decreases the elasticity of the soft tissue and can eventually cause a permanent change in the soft tissue structure. Myofascial release focuses on removing the scar tissue, to restore optimal muscle motion and function. (demonstration of most common foam rolling areas can be viewed on our website with links to videos)
“Report on Absorption of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) across the skin”, Dr RH Waring, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham. B15 2TT, U.K.
Penney, Stacey, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS. “NASM Blog.” NASM Blog. National Academy of Sports Medicine, 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. <http://blog.nasm.org/training-benefits/foam-rolling-applying-the-technique-of-self-myofascial-release/>.
Clark MA, Lucett SL. NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training, Baltimore, MD:Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2011.
Clark MA, Lucett SL. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th ed. Baltimore, MD:Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2012.