To Your Health
October, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 10)
Specific Factors Influencing Injury Risk: Which Apply to You?
Some studies have shown that athletes who are aggressive, tense and compulsive have a higher risk of injury than their more relaxed peers. Tension may make muscles and tendons tighter, increasing the risk that they will be harmed during workouts. Try some breathing exercises or visualization before starting your workout to ensure you are as relaxed as possible.
Many injuries are caused by weak muscles that are simply not ready to handle the specific demands of your sport. This is why people who start a running program for the first time often do well for a few weeks, but then suddenly develop foot or ankle problems, hamstring soreness or perhaps lower back pain as they add the mileage on. Their bodies simply are not strong enough to cope with the demands of the increased training load. For this reason, it is always wise to couple resistance training with regular training. Your body needs to be stronger before it can handle the "new" demands being put on it.
Screening for muscle imbalances is the current cutting edge of injury prevention. The rationale behind this is that there are detectable and correctable abnormalities of muscle strength and length that are fundamental to the development of almost all musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. Detection of these abnormalities and correction before injury has occurred should be part of any injury prevention strategy. Assessment of muscle strength and imbalances, as well as regular chiropractic and massage therapy, can be beneficial in this strategy.
Technically speaking, muscle stiffness refers to the ratio between the change in muscle resistance and the change in muscle length. Muscle stiffness is directly related to muscle injury risk, so it is important to reduce muscle stiffness during your warm-up. Research indicates that only dynamic stretches (slow, controlled movements through the full range of motion) decrease muscle stiffness. Static exercises (holding a stretch in one position for a period of time) do not decrease muscle stiffness. This suggests that dynamic stretches are the most appropriate exercises for warming up; static stretches are perhaps more appropriate for the cool-down period, as they help to relax the muscles and increase their range of movement.
When pain syndromes develop, certain locations on the body called trigger points develop. A "trigger point" (TP) is a thick knot in a muscle that is palpable and tender (even painful to the touch). A diagnostic sign of a trigger point is a so-called jump sign. This sign is produced by accurately palpating the TP to produce pain in the area of referral as well as muscle contraction (or a jump) of the involved extremity.
Treatment of a TP (separating the fibers of the muscle knot) can be achieved by applying direct pressure to the point for 10 to 20 seconds, gradually releasing the pressure and repeating the process four or five times. The amount of pressure, which will depend on the sensitivity of the TP, can be applied by using one or both thumbs. A number of treatments may be required but as the sensitivity of the TP reduces it will become harder to find.
Trigger points are an early warning to a potential serious injury, getting checked for TPs is very beneficial. A regular massage is well worth it as the therapist, when conducting a massage, can check for TPs and treat them. I also always use an anti-inflammatory cream when treating TPs to help reduce pain and inflammation, which helps the healing process.