First of all, let’s start with the basics.
Injury occurs when the body is exposed to forces that it cannot process, manage or disperse, and are subcategorised into ‘Overuse’ & ‘Acute injuries’ (or ‘micro-trauma’ and ‘macro-trauma’).
Performing repetitive actions with poor technique, at regular intervals, may repeatedly overload the structures of the body, minimally, but repeatedly. This regular exposure on the muscles, bones & joints (etc.) result in micro-trauma, as the structures struggle with the repeated micro damage, but fail to repair and regenerate fully, before being re-exposed. This is what is termed Overuse Injury.
There are a number of factors involved in developing an overuse injury, as detailed below (see Fig1.) but ultimately the exposure to overload, exceeds the time required for repair resulting in damaged tissue.
Understanding the WHY behind the onset of overuse injuries is the biggest challenge for your therapist, and is where our investigative skills come in to play!
Fig 1. Risk factors of overuse injuries
Predisposing Risk factors for overuse injuries can also be considered as Extrinsic (something external to the body that can cause injury) or Intrinsic (being factors internal to the individual person) Fig 2.
The second mechanism of injury is an acute exposure to stronger forces that acutely overload the structures beyond their capacity, moving them in a way they are not designed to move, or exceeding their ability to transmit the forces they are exposed to, resulting in macro-trauma or an acute injury.
Fig 2. Extrinsic & Intrinsic risk factors to overuse injuries
But it's not always that simple !
(that would be boring wouldn’t it!).
The body is a complex machine, and therefore, understanding the mechanism of injury and locating the source of pain is not always a nice yellow brick road to follow.
Pain may not necessarily be coming from the site where it is felt. Referred pain needs to be considered, as does the much more complex phenomenon of chronic pain.
Some medical conditions can masquerade as injury, with mimicking signs and symptoms so discussing your case with a qualified therapist is very important for not missing any red flags, and loosing time to seek medical advice. If an injury remains unresponsive to treatment, seeking a second opinion or seeing your GP for further referrals is always advised.
The area of pain may not be the area of dysfunction! In order for movement to occur smoothly, under full control and in a stabilised manner, the whole kinetic chain must work as a coordinated unit, with the separate body segments, or “links” (above and below the limb actually moving and functioning) all moving in smooth and co-ordinated sequences, starting from a proximal base of support (or stability). This coordination throughout the kinetic chain results in a cumulative effective transfer of force and energy, resulting in controlled and efficient body movement and ultimately safe and effective movement. A “kink” (injury or dysfunction) anywhere along this chain can result in excess strain or loading/over compensation (& therefore injury) to any muscle group/ or body segment further up or down the chain. This is why rehabilitation exercises, and taking responsibility of your own injury is so key in a successful outcome – a therapists’ “hands on” treatment can be an excellent modality in your treatment journey, to ease out tension, release trigger points, stretch contracted muscle, break down scar tissue etc., but ultimately we cannot change how your body moves and stabilises' itself (which is why I like to give exercises to all patients presenting with ongoing or acute issues and why I always encourage ((nag)) for you to do the exercises I set!) (It’s not just because I have turned into my mum).
With this is mind, let’s consider how the body moves when running.
The Biomechanics of running
The biomechanics of running is a combination of movements, swings and foot strikes that can be analysed and considered in sections when considering potential trigger factors for running related injuries. Certain abnormal biomechanics have been clinically associated with certain lower limb injuries – and in my future blogs in this Running Injuries Series some of these will be considered – but the science of biomechanics is advancing with some research supporting these clinically noted associations, and some suggesting there is more to consider.
In simplistic terms, running with optimum body mechanics should enable the kinetic chain to function effectively and transmit forces efficiently enough to not cause over or mis/dis use.
For example, free from excessive motion or restriction (which may cause asymmetrical mechanics and impact somewhere along the kinetic chain) the forces moving though the body should be transmitted effectively, reducing the risk of injury. Now saying that, and completely contradicting myself! we must always consider that each individual has his or her own mechanical make-up and “normal” (due to structural characteristics), so variations will and do occur. Although one person may have excessive “flat feet” (over pronation) they could be symptom free and never have had any issues, meaning although they don’t fit the text book profile of “ideal biomechanics”, we can’t consider their biomechanics to be somehow dysfunctional if they are injury free.
To briefly explain the biomechanics of running it is, similar to walking, broken down into stance and swing phases. The stance phase is divided into contact, midstance and propulsion. The swing phase divided into follow-through, forward swing and foot descent. Unlike walking, there is a “flight phase” with running, when neither foot has contact with the ground. These stance, flight and swing phases change in duration depending on the speed of running (jogging/sprinting), as does the portion of the foot that strikes the ground on landing.
It are these considerations that may be taken into account depending on the injury you present with, for example depending on your style of running you may be landing on different aspects of your foot, or your swing time and rhythm may be different or may be affected by commonly clinically associated muscular tightness/dysfunctions.
Now, finally, in our journey to understanding the concept of running injuries a little bit better, before moving onto specific body areas, and injuries commonly associated with running in the weeks to come, let’ s consider quickly the phenomenon of pain.
Pain is not an accurate indication of tissue injury or damage! Yes, there are many pain-producing structures within the body that contain nociceptors (the receptors that “feel pain” and transmit these pain signals to the brain), but sometimes pain is reported without any detected localised damage or dysfunction, and sometimes pain is ‘referred’ to distant areas
Nociceptors (the pain receptors) can be “fired up” by chemical irritation (as present in inflammation in response to injury), and also by localised muscle spasms in response to an injury, or later, from fibrosities and scarring occurring from an injury repair. This type of pain response is seen in acute pain presentations and has a clear physiological founding. Now remember, pain is not transmitted from the site where you feel it, in fact pain is a message from the brain, in response to sensory information it receives, and then responds to (be that information be changes in chemical levels / pressure / stretch on the tissues at the area affected, changes in temperature, but also other sensory input such as sight / sound / touch).
Although pain is a useful and vital mechanism to prevent further harm and injury, pain can sometimes be present without any clear tissue damage, and when you enter the realms of chronic pain, things can get a lot more confusing. Patients with no pain can image (XRAY/CT SCANS) with clear disc protrusions or disc ruptures in the lumbar spine, yet be completely unaware of their physical presentation as they are pain free and functioning well. Therefore, pain is not a clear indication of lumbar vertebral issues with these patients. Which leads to question where is the pain coming from and why is it there? Similarly, patients with Limb amputation can still experience pain in the limb that is no longer there. If it is not from damaged structures, then what has caused the brain and central nervous system to overdrive pain signals? And how can this impact of the diagnosis and management of injury?
Pain that has been present for more than 3 months is classified as chronic pain, and given that most structural injuries have “healed” within 3-6 months, this persistent pain COULD be attributed to more complex factors. It is important to consider the pain is coming from an over-sensitised nervous system, and there are many factors that could impact on that, to include;
So, as you can see, as I plan to move into more regional pain patterns and injuries associated with running, there are many different factors that may come into play with their management and resolution. However, I hope this has pointed out some of the main pointers that I, as your therapist, is considering when you present with a niggle, and how you can become responsible for your own rehabilitation and injury resolution.
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So, what is it that I actually DO?
A ‘Graduate Sports Therapist’ is someone who had undertaken a BSc Hons Sports Therapy degree at University, studying the mechanism of injury, sport specific biomechanics, psychology of injury and manual therapy for 3-4 years. The aim of a Sports Therapist is to “return an athlete to functional fitness as quickly and safely as possible”, meaning we aim to assess, diagnose, treat, & rehabilitate in a safe and effective time frame, so that you can return to doing what you love.
But what is soft tissue therapy?
I often refer to what I do as soft tissue therapy, but you may be unfamiliar with exactly what this term is. Essentially, soft tissue therapy, is probably what you consider to be “massage”, but it is SO much more. Let me explain why.
Yes, it is true that your treatment will include massage, and as a treatment medium, massage can be exceptionally effective at breaking down adhesions, softening areas of tension, releasing restrictions, calming the nervous and muscular system, and allowing patients to access the healing benefit of touch.
But a well experienced soft tissue therapist will call on so much more than massage alone when compiling a treatment plan to help.
Soft Tissue Release (STR) / Myofascial Release (MFR), fascial work, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage (IASTM) and Muscle Energy Techniques (MET’s) also fall within the brackets of “soft Tissue therapy”.
What else ?
Additionally to that, a Graduate Sports Therapist can ALSO call on rehabilitation exercise prescription, be it a few simple stretches or some strengthening or proprioceptive exercises, given as “home work”, to consolidate the hands-on treatment and ensure progressions and improvements are encouraged and maintained.
Therapists often also have further qualifications, I hold certificates in Medical Acupuncture, Kinesiology Taping, ScarWork and other further qualifications, but there is abundant further education out there for a keen therapist (such as me, the eternal student!).
My Treatments, and who they help.
My treatments, therefore have strong emphasis on clincal reasoning, and come from a sound understanding of functional anatomy, dysfunction and the mechanism of injury.
However, with my roots in holistic therapies (I trained in reflexology when I undertook my initial sports massage diploma training), I am uniquely able to bring an intuitive and holistic approach to sessions, in order to offer a fully-rounded treatment suitable to all populations, which brings me on to my next point; Who is soft tissue therapy for?
In todays' demanding lifestyle, with occupational, emotional and personal-life demands high, both physical and emotional pressure is presented by and stored within the body. Therefore, EVERYONE could benefit from a Sports therapy treatment, and unlike popular belief, it is not solely for the sporting or active person. Your occupation could place repepitive physical demands that overload structures within the body (I have treated numerous trades men presenting with "tennis elbow" who have never touched a racket). Desk work, parenting and prolonged stress states can lead to chronic musculoskeletal conditions, negative postural adaptations and strain on the body which may benefit from treatment.
Still unsure? Away Pain Therapy are at the end of the phone, or email - get in touch for a no obligation chat or to have any questions answered.
What is Ayurvedic Face Massage?
Ever feel that you're running on empty, or that you are just too busy juggling life's balls to even stop and think about how you're feeling?
Momentary periods of stress are common in this day and age, (and in fact, stress & the stress-response is what drives us to get out of bed, move forward, meet deadlines, achieve goals and function at high levels). But di-stress, or prolonged periods of high stress can be seriously detrimental to our health and wellbeing. Failure to take note of the signs that you may be pushing things too far, and storming ahead toward your own burn-out break down, is something that too many of us are guilty of.
Read on for the common signs that you may be about to burnout
If you are suddenly finding that your nearest & dearest are rubbing you up the wrong way, or you're wondering where that cool, calm, rational person you used to be has disappeared to, then chances are your threshold to manage stress is rapidly declining. When the little things appear un-manageable, and a sense of being over-whelmed is the norm, the balance has swung in favour against your health.
PROBLEMS WITH YOUR SLEEP?
Waking up in the early hours, and not being able to drop back off are a key sign we are succumbing to stress. An overactive mind has a tendency to kick in when we are not distracted with the busyness of the day, and anxieties can haunt us at night. Raised cortisol levels (which should be at their lowest by the end of the day), can make winding down from the day near impossible, and dropping off the sleep can become a task in its own right.
If you're running through your to-do list at 4am, or struggling to drop off at night, read on, as this may indicate something needs to change for you and fast, because it is only when we sleep that our bodies regenerate & heal.
SUFFERING WITH A GENERAL FEELING OF "C.B.A"?
"Cant be a**ed" is a red-flag phenomenon that you're about to hit burn out ! If you're suffering from a generalised lack of motivation for anything and everything, or turning into a social recluse, it could be a sign you're lacking vital energy. Cant find your mojo to work through your to-do list, or do that pile of ironing? Finding excuses not to attend those after-work drinks.? Motivation requires a bit of get-up-&-go, so if you've found that your get-up-and-go and got up and gone, then take a step back and consider giving yourself some TLC & downtime.
So, what should you do about it?
Make some you time, and don't feel guilty about it !
Whatever floats your boat, do it. If its a having a cup of tea in the middle of the day, taking a power nap or going for a run.
If your vice is crystal healing or a deep tissue massage then prioritise it. Whatever gives you back your sanity and helps you to recharge your vital energy stores do it, but remember, it may not be a quick fix. Invest the time to recuperate properly and make taking care of yourself the new norm. (Depending on how long you have been neglecting yourself, it may take more than one days rest or one treatment!) Allowing yourself some hands-on therapy, or the time to exercise should not be seen as an indulgence, it should be considered as self-preservation.
Eat well, and try to follow a healthy lifestyle plan. Get lots of fresh air and exercise for the mental clarity, not just the physical exertion.
You cannot give from an empty pot. Looking after yourself allows you to look after the others in your life. Remember that and avoid feeling the burn!
Fanatic about functional anatomy, my home often resembles a students dorm room with anatomy and therapy text books strewn about on a regular basis. I like to keep abreast on the industry, and when time allows between mummy-duties, I read trade magazines, books and journal articles, to help me prep & plan treatment plans & rehab.
After copious amounts of travelling & 'debt-clearing / ticket-funding' jobs in my twenties, I finally discovered my true passion for helping others to prevent, recover & rehabilitate from injury and pain, and began my training & qualifications in body work.
I love to write about all things therapy, (if anything as an excuse to drink tea in coffee shops), but also to learn more about my industry & be a better therapist for my lovely peeps.