The warm weather is finally here in Vancouver! With it comes a ton of opportunities to get out of the house and participate in your favorite sports. Whether you’re playing football, soccer, golf, throwing the Frisbee around, engaged in water sports or just hiking, injuries happen. While it’s possible to injure yourself in a number of ways such as through contact, acute trauma, falls and overuse, some types of sports injuries are far more common than others. Here are the ones that occur most frequently:
- Hip flexor strain. Your hip flexors are muscles at the front and top of your thighs. They come into play every time you raise your knee or move your leg outward from your body. A hip flexor strain is a pulled or partially torn muscle, and can occur from stair climbing, stop and start running, running sprints and running uphill.
- Groin strain. A strained groin can often be confused with a hip flexor problem, but the groin muscles are not on the front of your thighs, but rather in the crease where your torso joins your legs. While a hip flexor strain is painful when you lift your legs, a groin strain is felt when you pull your legs together. Groin strains can occur from running, kicking, stair climbing, skating or playing basketball or racquet sports. The action of lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects can also cause a groin strain.
- Knee injuries. Your knee is a complicated joint and injuries can include ligament sprains or tears, tears in the protective cartilage called the meniscus, fractures, dislocations and tendon damage. Some of the most frequent sports injuries to your knee can include:
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament sprain or tear. Your ACL is a ligament that connects your thigh bone to your shin. Your ACL is most commonly injured when you pivot your leg when your foot it planted.
- Medial Collateral Ligament sprain or tear. Your MCL also connects the bones on the inside of your knee. It can also be sprained or torn, but more commonly by taking a direct hit to the outside of the knee, which stretches and injures the ligaments on the inside.
- Bursitis. Every joint in your body is protected by small fluid-filled sacs, called bursae (singular is bursa). Bursitis is inflammation of one or more of those sacs, which can commonly occur in your knee from a direct blow, overuse, twisting or as a result of arthritis.
- Baker’s Cyst. Also called a popliteal cyst, a Baker’s cyst is a fluid-filled bulge that usually occurs at the back of your knee. It can occur from arthritis, torn cartilage or other injuries to your knee that causes it to swell and produce fluid.
- Quadriceps strain. Your quadriceps, or quads, are the large muscles at the front of your thighs. They’re large because they carry your body’s weight and are constantly engaged when you’re running, balancing, standing up, squatting and participating in sports. Quadriceps injuries often occur when you’re not sufficiently warmed up and jump right into running or sprinting.
- Hamstring pull. Your hamstrings are the muscles at the back of your thigh. A hamstring pull is also considered a muscle strain. Hamstring injuries are common in sports that involve kicking or jumping, and are also related to an imbalance in strength between the quadriceps in the front and the hamstrings in the back. In both quad and hamstring pulls, severe injury can result in the muscle being torn partially or completely.
- Ankle sprain. While a strain occurs in a muscle, a sprain is an injury to the ligaments that connect bone to bone. During a sprain, the ligaments are stretched beyond their capacity. The most common is an ankle sprain, as it’s easy to roll your ankle inward or outward during any number of sports, including football, tennis, running, soccer and sports that involve jumping. Like most sprains, ankle sprains are painful and can take some time to heal because the ligaments aren’t flexible like muscles and overstretching causes them to be damaged.
- Plantar fasciitis. This is inflammation of the tendon that runs through the arch of your foot, the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis is a kind of tendonitis that can occur as the result of overuse, running or playing racquet sports on a hard surface or using worn or unsupportive footwear. The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain on the bottom of your foot, in the arch or on or near the heel.
- Tennis or Golfer’s elbow. Both of these injuries are a kind of tendonitis of the elbow. Tennis elbow occurs on the outside of your elbow, and golfer’s elbow on the inside. Both are overuse injuries and often occur because of improper grip or wrist positioning during impact with the ball in golf, tennis, and even baseball. Lifting weights that are too heavy can also cause elbow tendonitis.
- Shoulder injuries. Shoulder dislocations, rotator cuff injuries and overuse issues can occur for a variety of reasons. Throwing, bracing yourself for a fall, traumatic injuries, racquet sports and any other repetitive motions involving your arms can lead to shoulder injuries.
- No discussion of sports-related injuries is complete without mentioning concussions. A concussion is an injury to your brain caused by any impact that’s strong enough to sustain a whiplash-like motion as your brain moves forcefully inside your skull. Concussions can be severe, need medical attention and can cause long-term symptoms if an athlete has sustained more than one.
Treating Sports Injuries at BodaHealth
Needless to say, the nature of a sports injury will determine the best course of treatment, and many will demand rest. However, while you’re resting, a number of natural treatments at BodaHealth can help speed up the healing process.
Acupuncture can be a good first line treatment for sports injuries. It’s well-known that acupuncture is an effective therapy to relieve pain. However, scientists have also discovered that acupuncture reduces inflammation, promotes the circulation of blood and healing nutrients to the treated area and can speed up your recovery. Chinese herbs can be an effective adjunct to acupuncture, as a way to promote circulation, relieve pain and move both energy and blood throughout the injured area to support healing.
BodaHealth also offers cold laser therapy as an excellent way to support healing from athletic injuries, including sprains, strains and even concussions. Cold laser therapy is a low level light therapy that gently penetrates deeply into the tissues below the surface of the skin to produce cellular changes and rejuvenation. Cold laser therapy is used to relieve pain, repair tissue damage, reduce scar tissue and reduce the time it takes to heal.
Another good treatment option for patients with sports injuries is shock wave therapy. Also known as Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT), this modality uses pulsed acoustic waves, which are sound waves that are applied to the injured area. These waves are produced by a machine that converts compressed air into sound waves that are then applied to the injury through a handheld device. Shock wave therapy is extremely useful in treating musculoskeletal injuries because it can promote the circulation of healing nutrients and blood, prevent scarring and regenerate healthy tissue in tendons, ligaments, joints, muscles and bones. This translates into faster recovery time, which enables you to get back to your sport as soon as possible.
At BodaHealth, we believe that sports-related injuries benefit from therapeutic massage, especially those that involve muscle injuries. Our registered massage therapists can help relieve your pain and muscle tightness, promote circulation, prevent scar tissue formation, support the recovery process and even work with you in the prevention of future injuries.
Naturopathic medicine is an effective option in injury recovery. Our naturopathic physician can assess your diet, digestion, energy levels and the nature of your injury. They will provide a plan to support your recovery through herbal and nutritional supplementation, dietary suggestions and lifestyle guidelines. When necessary, they can run lab tests and prescribe medications. Along with naturopathic medicine, we offer the services of a holistic nutritionist, who can not only work with you to optimize your diet as you heal from your injury, but they can also help you develop a nutritional strategy to enhance your future performance as you get back to playing your sport.
The bottom line is regardless of what sports you choose, injuries are always a possibility. While there are things that you can do to prevent injuries, such as warming up, stretching and updating your equipment, injuries aren’t entirely preventable. Our advice? If you do get injured, rest and let it heal and let us help you recover as quickly as possible with natural treatment options. For more information, give us a call today. We’ll help you get back to your sport as soon as possible!
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.