Injuries are part of life.
Aches, pains, breaks and sprains, injuries are a part of life for nearly everyone. Whether you’re an elite level career athlete, a casual exercise enthusiast or a relatively inactive individual, time takes a toll on our bodies. Physical activity, with all of it’s benefits for health and wellness, always carries the risk of hurting yourself, either through overuse, acute trauma or poor mechanics. An inactive lifestyle, where you may not be exposed to many external risk factors for injury, often leads to a breakdown of tissue through atrophy and degeneration, poor posture and reduced mobility. So it’s fair to say that most people will experience some form of injury or musculoskeletal pain at some point.
These injuries can manifest themselves in a variety of different ways – broken bones, torn tendons, sprained ligaments, inflamed bursae, crushed neural tissue, calcific deposits, disc herniation, myofascial adhesions. The common theme linking many of these conditions and injuries is a change in the structural integrity of the tissue, usually a degeneration or compromise of the cellular organisation of the specific areas affected by the injury.
If you play a sport, the chances are you have or will experience an injury at some point in your playing life.
Let’s look at an example of an injury
Take a simple tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, as an example. Here we have an overuse injury of the elbow, resulting in inflammation, chronic pain, and loss of function. On a deeper level, we can see that we have repeated micro-trauma to the tendons of the wrist extensor muscles at the elbow – that is we have tiny tears and damage to the area, resulting in an inflammatory response which increases over time as the area is not afforded enough time to rest and recover, and is subjected to more continuous trauma. This becomes a chronic condition over time, as the normal healing process is interrupted by overuse, and the tissue begins to degenerate and atrophy (shrink and weaken) in the area as pain inhibits the normal use and function of the elbow and wrist.
So, how do we manage a condition like this? Well, there are several options, and each has its place in an effective treatment plan, depending on the specific details of the individual, the severity of the injury etc. Firstly, a conservative approach would involve the use of rest, adjunctive therapies like dry needling, heat therapy etc, and a comprehensive rehabilitation exercise program to restore normal function. If this approach doesn’t work, most healthcare professionals would then look to something like a corticosteroid injection into the area. This mainly works as an anti-inflammatory and pain reduction modality, with the goal of reducing inflammation and pain and allowing the person to try to restore normal function.
While both of these approaches can provide good results for many people, there are still a huge number of individuals who do not respond effectively, and are left with chronic pain which, in some cases, never resolves.
When pain becomes chronic it can be difficult to break the pattern and illicit healing.
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