This section includes techniques in addition to massage that can not only treat injury, but help prevent it.
Hydrotherapy involves the use of water as a means of restoration by removing toxins, lactic acids, and improving metabolism. Water has 30 times the capability of air, which makes it a very useful tool for recovery. Warm water will penetrate muscle tissue, increase blood flow, aid in exchange of nutrients, reduce soreness, increase heart rate, etc. Cool water will take heat from the body acting as a tonic or stimulant. Mineral salts can be added to a bath or whirlpool to improve the effect of the hydro means.
The most important factor in hydrotherapy is the time which you use it and the ratio spent in hot versus cool water. For most, a good regimen is a 10-15 minute hot shower followed by a 1-2 minute cold shower (as cold as the faucet will yield). To aid this process, a shower head that rotates water pressure may be purchased. Along with the pressure head, you can perform hot-cold switching every 30 seconds, i.e., 30 seconds hot shower followed by 30 seconds cold shower. Always begin with hot water followed by cold; this interval shower should last for 5-8 minutes; finish the shower with cold water. This is commonly called an “Interval” or “Swedish” shower. These types of restorative processes should be used directly after the workout, especially if you train twice per day.
Another method to use in hydro-recovery is the whirlpool or a hot bath with the temperature set at 100-106 deg F. The primary purpose of the whirlpool is to relax the athlete. The duration in the whirlpool should not exceed 20 minutes and should be done directly after a workout or just prior to bedtime. Another means of recovery with water is the use of a swimming pool with a temperature of 80-85 deg F. Swim at a slow, relaxed pace for 10-20 minutes; this will have restorative effects.
These techniques should be used quite frequently. By doing so, one will allow the body to repair itself much faster, preventing injury; this is a small detail which should not be overlooked. You may or may not have a whirlpool bath, but almost everyone can use an interval shower after a workout.
A dry sauna can be used for many restorative processes in the body. Be sure its a dry sauna and not a steam room because steam rooms do not get hot enough to penetrate muscles and can be detrimental to some due to sinus and lung ailments. A dry sauna should be set at a temperature of 175-205 deg F with a 10-15 percent humidity. When set up properly, a dry sauna will increase chemical exchanges, nervous system functioning, increase blood flow, induce sweat gland activity, help heal muscle injuries, and open skin pores. Follow these simple guidelines for using a dry sauna:
- Use no more than twice per week.
- Take a warm shower beforehand (keep the hair dry).
- Dry off before entering the sauna.
- Wrap your head with a cool towel before entering.
- Sit on the lowest level for 2-3 minutes on a dry towel; afterwards, move to a higher level.
- Do not exceed 6-10 minutes and take a contrast shower (cold for the first five minutes followed by hot (100 deg F) then cold (50 deg F).
- Dry off and repeat steps 5-7 for a total of three times.
- Never exercise in a sauna or enter while drinking alcohol.
- Allow 10 minutes for cool down, drinking adequate amounts of water for the next two hours.
- Younger athletes (< 16 years old) should never proceed to the higher levels where the temperature is higher. The duration for a young athlete is 4-5 minutes.
Sports massage for the elite athlete has become a necessity during the last decade. In certain instances, massage can prove more beneficial than supplementation as a means of recovery. Massage is used primarily to keep athletes from injury and over training and can increase flow of nutrients to muscles, reduce tension and stress, increase flexibility, enhance nervous system functions, induce sleep, and increase appetite. How much and how often depends on your size and training variables. However, as a rule of thumb, an active person should seek this service at least once every 3-4 weeks.
There are two types of massage for athletes; local and full body. For high training loads, a full body massage is advisable (twice per week). These massages should not be deep, but relaxing with rubbing and kneading techniques. If training loads are light or medium, a massage once every two weeks is sufficient. Local massage is used to treat special areas. An example of a local massage is for someone that may need extra attention to the hamstrings because of performing heavy leg curls. When speed-strength training, special attention should be given the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. A massage should be given only by a qualified sports massage therapist. To prevent injury and increase skills requires that proper care be taken with the body. Top athletes succeed because they do this, shouldn’t you?
Active Release Techniques©
This is only one type of physical therapy as an example to the reader. The goal of ART© is to restore optimal texture, motion, and function of the soft tissue and release any entrapped nerves or blood vessels. This is accomplished through the removal of adhesions or fibrosis in the soft tissues via the application of specific protocols. Adhesions can occur as a result of acute injury, repetitive motion , and constant pressure or tension. ART© eliminates the pain and dysfunction associated with these adhesions.
Dr. P. Michael Leahy first began teaching his innovative technique in 1991 using the name myofascial release. Later in 1995, he trademarked the name Active Release Techniques© .
This was done for several reasons:
- This technique was dealing with more than just muscle and fascia;
- There are many other techniques which utilize the name myofascial release and many practitioners that utilize myofascial release techniques which are not similar in any way or form to ART© to standardize the treatment a patient receives and duplicate the high rate of success achieved with ART©, a proficiency level was developed for ART© providers.
The types of conditions successfully treated with ART are very diverse.
Some of the more common conditions are:
- Carpal tunnel and other peripheral nerve entrapments
- Spinal pain and dysfuntion
- Tendonitis and other soft tissue inflammatory disorders of the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, and foot
- Sciatica, TMJ, recurrent sprains and strains
Only a credentialed ART provider can ascertain whether ART might prove beneficial for your condition. Providers must attend annual update seminars to maintain their credentialed status and keep current of any new protocols and research.
Why wasn’t I getting better with traditional treatments?
- Past soft tissue therapies of heat, cold, electrical stimulation, anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, rest, joint manipulation, and exercise failed due to a lack of permanent changes in the source of the injury.
- None of these treatments solved the underlying cause of the pain and resulting tissue malfunction.
What is ART© Soft-Tissue Management?
- ART© is a type of manual hands-on therapy that corrects muscular and soft-tissue problems caused by adhesion formation as a result of acute injury, repetitive trauma, or constant pressure and tension.
- There are nearly 300 ART© diagnostic and treatment protocols for the spine and upper and lower extremities.
- ART© was developed over the last decade by Dr. Michael Leahy, a world renowned chiropractor, graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, and former Air Force fighter test pilot.
What should I expect during an ART© treatment?
- ART finds the tissue that is injured and physically works it back to its normal texture, tension, and length using various hand positions and manipulation methods.
- Breaking up the adhesion’s can be uncomfortable at times
Once the muscle is returned to its normal state, then the joint is manipulated into alignment.
- It is important to reproduce the symptoms during the treatment to ensure that the correct muscles are being addressed.
- The muscles then must be strengthened using the prescribed exercises in order to keep the joint in the correct position.
- Unlike most therapies, it does not require extended periods of rest before you notice results. You can expect to see significant improvements in the injury after 1-2 sessions.
The normal treatment course is 6-8 visits, lasting 10-30 minutes each.
- The average patient is treated two times per week, but more complex cases may require 5-6 weeks of treatment.
What are Adhesion’s and how do they affect soft-tissue performance?
- Our bodies protect us from further damage by sending out pain signals and repair those damaged areas with scar tissue, otherwise known as adhesion’s.
- Adhesion’s are caused by acute trauma, repetitive motion, or constant tension.
- They normally begin to form within 2 days of the initial acute injury.
- If adhesion’s are attached to muscles, they decrease the muscles ability to work properly. If attached to nerves, they cause abnormal sensations like numbness, tingling, or pain.
- Adhesion’s also cause drag and tension which requires an additional expenditure of energy and effort to accomplish a desired movement.
- Adhesion’s heal but also weaken the tissue and if left untreated can expedite the beginning of the Cumulative Injury Cycle (CIC), also discovered by Dr. Michael Leahy
Is ART© a permanent cure?
The immediate changes to the adhesion’s are permanent, but the real answer lies with the prescribed stretching, strengthening exercises, and periodic joint manipulation. Also, if it is a repetitive motion or tension injury, then the adhesion’s could eventually build-up again if the activity itself is not modified.
- Results from ART:
There is over 90% success rate of permanent relief from the pain and resulting problems in movement and performance.
- Immediate treatment to an acute injury will generally speed up recovery by 50%
- Restoring proper muscle function and movement enables the body to perform at its most efficient level.
- ART© helps eliminate trigger points, because it treats the source of the pain. sometimes the path of treatment may not be obvious due to either radiating or referring pain symptoms.
- ART© improves performance by increasing range of motion, strength, endurance, and reaction times. It also increases circulation causing a positive change in carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nutrition and facilitates tissue repair.
Chiropractics and Acupuncture
Chiropractics and acupuncture are specialized restorative processes that can be very beneficial. Chiropractors can fix subluxations or minor misalignment’s of vertebrae that occur. Acupuncturists can stimulate blood flow in areas that may be blocked or muscles and ligaments that might be damaged. A visit to the chiropractor or acupuncturist every 2-3 months could be beneficial. The major problem with these methods of recovery is that a good acupuncturist or chiropractor is difficult to find, especially those that have experience with athletes. Talk to other athletes for referral to a good one in your area. However, for most, it is quite likely that hydro and sauna restorative techniques will be more available and safer.