The practice of sports medicine has several distinct but interrelated components. Among them are (1) training and preparation for participation in sports; (2) prevention of injury; (3) diagnosis and treatment; (4) and physical therapy programs designed to facilitate a person’s return to the playing field and normal life.
Orthopedic and sports physical therapy is a method of rehabilitative treatment whose ultimate goals are the restoration of the musculoskeletal system—the largest system in the human body—and the neuromuscular system. Because they do this through conservative treatment, without recourse to surgery, we say that the field of sports physical therapy is non-surgical, or non-invasive. In the last couple of decades sports medicine physical therapy has come to play an increasingly vital role in health care, especially as sports and orthopedic disorders become more and more common.
Why do we need sports physical therapy? One reason is, in a word, because of injuries. In its simplest definition, a sports injury is any injury that occurs on the playing field or because of athletic activity; however, the term generally includes not only injuries incurred as a result of sports-playing, but any injury that affects one’s participation in sports, regardless of how it was acquired. This includes athletes of all ages, both young and old, men and women. It can include both amateur and pro sports. Physical therapy encompasses all of these.
Experiencing an injury can incur tremendous losses on an athlete. For some, it can mean the end to one’s dreams of a career in sports. For a young player pinning his or her hopes on entering college on a sports scholarship, it can throw one’s whole plans for the future out of alignment. For recreational athletes it can mean direct or indirect health problems and isolation from one’s normal activities, including but not limited to sports. And physical therapy sports medicine is crucial for these reasons because physicians are able to provide accurate diagnosis of injuries and sound, empirical, evidence-based advice which lights the way towards healing and restoration.
Because accurate diagnosis is one of the bedrocks of effective recovery, sports injury is impossible without it. Although in some cases the diagnosis may be immediately obvious from an examination of the patient’s history, and from cursory clinical examination, in other cases X-Rays, MRIs, and other methods will be necessary to ensure complete accuracy.
But understanding the exact nature of the condition is only one half of diagnosis. Once the physician has correctly assessed what’s afflicting the patient, it becomes necessary to offer a way forward. Two patients who are given the same diagnosis may require different treatments depending on their medical history and the severity of the injury, among other factors. Medical consensuses may change from year to year and decade to decade, while new techniques and technologies are constantly emerging to bring physical therapy sports medicine into the world of tomorrow.
The following are some of the most commonly prescribed and effective methods of pain relief and symptom treatment in professional orthopedic and sports physical therapy.
The first and, in some ways, most crucial element of recovery after a diagnosis is adequate rest. Rest doesn’t always mean complete immobility, and in most cases total immobility would be detrimental to full recovery. In the broadest sense, rest means reducing the level of one’s ordinary activities so that healing may occur. It may even mean altering one’s physical exercise, for example by implementing cross-training exercises that can teach the body to work in different ways while removing the stress of exertion from areas that have become over-worked.
Cold and / or heating may also prove beneficial for recovering patients. Cold can be helpful when a patient is suffering from the pains that are often incurred in the hours and days immediately following injury, or during a flare-up of a condition such as arthritis. Physicians generally recommend applying a bag of ice, or frozen food, or a cold compress to the site of injury for up to 15 minutes at a time to relieve pain and inflammation. (However, ice, cold bags, or buckets of ice water should not be applied for more than 20 minutes, as anything longer than this can be detrimental.) In addition to relieving pain, heat can be useful in relaxing tense muscles. Patients can experience the effects of heating in the form of mineral springs, electric pads, or moist hot packs.
From ancient times, electric currents have been employed to treat injuries. Today one method of electrical healing therapy is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This involves the use of a battery-powered device that can vary in size from a small, handheld model to a machine installed in a doctor’s office. By stimulating sensory fibers in the body, TENS suppresses pain signal transmissions, reduces muscles spasms, and increased endorphin productions. It’s proven to be especially effective in the treatment of chronic osteoarthritis and bursitis pain.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a cervical spine pain treatment involving the use of a machine to stimulate muscles through safe, non-invasive intensities of electrical current, reducing muscle spasms and potentially increasing the body’s production of endorphins to relieve pain. TENS equipment may involve a gigantic machine in a doctor’s office or a smaller home kit.
For patients suffering from crippling orthopedic and sports injuries, NYDNRehab is widely recognized as a leader in the realm of treatment and rehabilitation. At our clinic in New York City we employ a combination of manual techniques and new technologies to provide some of the best care available.
Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) is one of the most advanced instruments in the realm of physical therapy and sports medicine today. With the assistance of a large, circular platform, a treadmill, and a force-plate to measure progress and provide instant feedback, CAREN creates a simulated virtual-reality environment similar to the holodeck depicted in Star Trek. Within this matrix-like setting, patients are able to practice exercises like navigating a boat through shark-infested waters. This has the effect of training them in correct posture and symmetrical weight-bearing. It’s one of the most effective of all currently available rehabilitative technologies. Plus, it’s fun!
We also use gait (walking) and running analysis and dynamic neuromuscular stabilization (DNS) according to the Kolar method. Gait analysis shows us a comprehensive picture of all the forces involved in a patient’s motion. It’s like a moving MRI. DNS treatment activates the motor control systems in the brain to re-train a patient in correct movement by going back to the roots of human motion. For all these reasons, NYDNRehab is recognized as a leader in sports medicine and orthopedic treatment in New York City.