According to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 8.6 million injuries occur every year as a result of participating in some type of sports or recreation activity.
Additionally, males tend to suffer more of these types of injuries than females, with individuals in the 5 to 24-year age range making up more than half (64.9 percent) of all athletic injuries reported annually.
With numbers like these, it’s highly likely that you’ll see some of these individuals in your chiropractic office. But what types of soft tissue treatment options work best for patients who’ve sustained an injury while engaging in a physical activity they enjoy?
There are many available, but here are three options to consider.
IASTM stands for instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, a treatment method which Physiopedia defines as “a new range of tool” that have been specifically created to help practitioners find and treat restrictions in the fascia. These tools also help ease that restriction by applying the appropriate level of pressure to the impacted area.
Research published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation in February 2017 shares that this particular treatment technique works by removing scar tissue, enhancing the healing process via “formation of new extracellular matrix proteins such as collagen.” It further states that IASTM has also been found to improve function and range of motion while also decreasing pain.
A study published in the journal Physical Therapy Reviews in March 2017 expands on this issue further. After looking at seven different pieces of research, the authors of this piece concluded that the study’s outcomes “support the idea that IASTM may have an impact on physiological changes by providing an increase in blood flow, reduction in tissue viscosity, myofascial release, interruption of pain receptors, and improvement of flexibility of underlying tissue.”
All in all, this results in improved function and reduced pain to the injured area. Additionally, based on these study’s results, a positive effect can often be achieved in less than three months. This is good news for the athletic patient who is intent on returning to the game as quickly as possible.
Another soft tissue injury treatment option is cupping. Though it is just now becoming more mainstream, Medicine Net explains that cupping is a technique which actually dates back to traditional Chinese medicine. Its goal is to “remove stagnation and stimulate the flow of qi (chi),” which means that it works by restoring the body’s flow of energy by eliminating any blockages or imbalances that exist.
Medicine Net goes on to say that the way cupping creates this type of response is by improving circulation to the affected area, removing toxins (drawing them to the surface), and loosening and relaxing connective tissues for “better cell-to-cell communication.” This provides many benefits to the athlete in particular, according to Medicine Net, which is why some of the nation’s top competitors used this technique in the 2016 Olympic games.
Many studies have found that cupping can provide positive results. For instance, in the November 2017 edition of the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, one piece of research looked at six randomized controlled trials and concluded that “cupping therapy was superior to the control management with respect to VAS scores…and ODI scores,” two units used to measure pain and disability.
Though, this technique isn’t for everyone as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reports that it should not be performed on individuals with certain health conditions “as more serious side effects can occur.” The side effects referenced by the NCCIH include bruising, soreness, burns, discomfort, and sometimes skin infection, which is why this agency recommends that only trained health professionals perform this technique.
3. RICE, PRICE, and POLICE
Perhaps the best-known and most used response to injury is RICE. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) shares that following RICE protocol—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—is “usually very effective” at helping treat soft tissue injures such as sprains and strains. That makes this a great option for patients to use to speed up healing between regular chiropractic visits.
Not all health experts agree that RICE is the best way to treat sports-related injuries though, with Medical News Today indicating that research in this area is inconclusive at best. Plus, some practitioners believe that the proper injury response is actually PRICE, a protocol which adds protection of the impacted area to this regimen.
Still others suggest that the best response is actually POLICE, which stands for protection, optimal loading, ice compression, and elevation. Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine explains that, instead of thinking of this as a formula for recovery, it is actually an acronym that serves as a “reminder to clinicians to think differently and seek out new and innovative strategies for safe and effective loading in acute soft tissue injury management.”
Whichever treatment options you recommend for your patients, the intended result is clear: reduced pain and increased range of motion. When you accomplish this, everyone wins.