If you’re an athlete, you know how important it is to keep your body in top shape.
That includes proper stretching before you practice, eating right, and keeping a good sleep schedule. But what about physical therapy?
Physical therapy is a great resource to address sports and running injuries regardless of your age or ability level. In addition to injury management, physical therapy also focuses on injury prevention, sports ability improvement, and safe participation using an evidenced-based approach.
Some examples of the methods used in physical therapy include:
- targeted exercises to return your body to pre-injury function
- personalized exercises designed to improve mobility restrictions
- a customized exercise routine designed to reduce susceptibility to further injury and avoid recurring injuries
The goal is ultimately to achieve your peak athletic performance and reduce your risk of injury.
Read on to find out more about how physical therapy for sports & sports injuries can help.
What Is Physical Therapy For Sports Injuries?
Physical therapy for sports injuries is a multi-disciplinary approach to the prevention, evaluation, and treatment of sports injuries.
The initial stage of treatment typically involves focusing on reducing your pain and helping your body heal.
After that, the next stage of your treatment focuses on reconditioning. This typically includes targeted exercises with particular goals like mobility, flexibility training, joint positioning, and coordination of balance.
This stage leads towards re-establishing your strength as the end goal.
If you’re an athlete, whether professional or just a weekend warrior, a physical therapist can help.
As you can imagine, the type of physical therapy you need will vary based on your sport, and what sort of injury you’ve acquired or are trying to prevent.
Let’s explore some specific applications of physical therapy for sports injuries below.
Physical Therapy For Sports Injury Prevention
Of course, the best way to deal with a sports injury is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
If you’re considering a new sport, consider speaking to a physical therapist. We can help you understand the muscles you’ll be using more, the risk you have for injury, and how to avoid an injury from taking place.
The first step is to assess your risk of injury associated with your sport, since naturally every sport is a little different. A baseball player will have a different injury risk than a marathon runner or a cyclist, after all. As well, different people will have different risks of injury in the same sport depending on their personal health history.
Once we have a better idea of your risk, we’ll build a strategy designed to help you do your sport with a lower risk of injury.
Physical Therapy To Improve Athletic Performance
Similarly to physical therapy for sports injury prevention, physical therapy for improving athletic performance varies from person to person, and from sport to sport.
In this case, your physical therapist will first evaluate your physical performance profile. Every athlete has certain strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to understand what these are.
Once we’ve established areas you can improve, you’ll get a specific regimen designed to address these areas. This can help you work toward improving your strength, endurance, agility, stamina, flexibility, mobility, and more.
Physical Therapy For Runners
It might not seem that way, but running can actually be particularly hard on your body. This is because of the repetitive impact on your body as your feet hit the ground. As a result, physical therapy can make a particularly big difference.
Running injuries are some of the most common athletic injuries we face here in the United States. That’s partially because of how accessible it is – you don’t need to buy any expensive equipment or put together a team, after all. But it’s also because of how easy it is to do it wrong.
Running can cause new injuries, but it can also aggravate existing ones. The goal with physical therapy for runners is to help you run in a way that reduces your risk of these injuries.
The following are some common running injuries and how physical therapy can help with them.
Physical Therapy For Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a very common running injury of the foot, affecting roughly 15% of all runners.
It’s an injury caused by small tears and inflammation of the tendons that connect your heel to the ball of your foot.
Plantar fasciitis is often most painful right in the morning and can feel like a bruise in the middle of your foot. Runners with low arches are especially prone to this injury.
If you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, a physical therapist can help. Depending on the nature of your injury, treatment for may include:
- Ankle stretches
- Plantar fascia stretches
- Use of a night splint
- Fitted footwear inserts
- Strengthening exercises to prevent plantar fascia overloading
Plantar fasciitis can be a particularly difficult injury to deal with, but a physical therapist can help. Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today.
Physical Therapy For Shin Splints
Shin splints are small tears in the muscles that surround the tibia, or your shin bone. They cause pain in the front or inside of your lower leg, along your shins.
In general, they’re caused by repetitive stress on your shins. If you’re getting back into running after an extended time off, for example, you’re at higher risk for shin splints.
They can also be caused by:
- Repeated jumping
- Running too fast or too far
- Excessive hip motion
- Previous running injuries
If you’re dealing with shin splints, they may go away on their own. However, a physical therapist can still help. Stretches that target the affected muscles, foot taping, therapeutic massages, and recommendations on supportive running shoes can help. Your physical therapist may also recommend dry needling.
Your physical therapist can help you effectively recover from shin splints, as well as reduce your risk of getting them again. Book an appointment today to find out how.
Physical Therapy For Runner's Knee
So many activities have injuries associated with them, don’t they? Tennis elbow, athlete’s foot, and even writer’s cramp. Running has one too – runner’s knee.
Runner’s knee is when the cartilage under your kneecap becomes irritated. It’s often caused by inward foot rolling during running in combination with weak upper leg muscles. But while it’s called “runner’s knee”, you can get it without running.
If you feel an aching pain around your kneecaps that gets worse by squatting, sitting, standing, or climbing stairs, you might have runner’s knee.
Your physical therapist can help you both recover from this injury, and reduce your risk of it happening again in the future. They do this by strengthening your upper leg and thigh muscles. This includes hamstring and quadriceps stretches, quadriceps sets and gluteus medius exercises.
Physical Therapy For Achilles Tendinopathy
Your Achilles tendon is a tendon that attaches your heel to the two major muscles in your calf. It can get tightened and irritated, most often because of weak calf muscles in runners. It’s difficult for your calf muscles to handle the increased workload, which can cause Achilles tendinopathy.
It most often occurs when runners increase the intensity or duration of their runs, since their calf muscles haven’t built up enough to deal with the increased strain.
It feels like a mild ache above your heel, but may get more severe with exertion.
Achilles tendinopathy tends to resolve itself with sufficient rest. As a result, physical therapy for Achilles tendinopathy focuses on pain relief, teaching proper movement during exertion, and building balanced muscle strength.
Physical Therapy For Hip Injuries
You might not think of them as much as you do other parts of your body, but your hips are incredibly important. If you feel pain, stiffness, or discomfort in your hips after physical activity, it’s important to see a physical therapist as soon as possible.
Hip injuries can be painful, restricting your ability to do many of your daily activities. And while some hip injuries may resolve themselves, leaving them without care can cause your body to heal incorrectly.
Physical therapy for hip injuries often starts with rest and ice to help manage pain and inflammation. From there, your physical therapist may provide you with exercises designed to improve recovery and mobility.
Some common hip injuries that physical therapy treats include hip pointer injuries, hip flexor strains, and hip bursitis.
Physical Therapy For Hernias
There are six different types of hernias, but one of the most common is the inguinal hernia. An estimated 27% of men – but only 3% of women – will experience an inguinal hernia at some point.
Inguinal hernias happen when soft tissue protrudes from the abdominal cavity. There are two types that can occur in the groin region – direct and indirect hernias.
A direct hernia occurs when a portion of the intestine protrudes directly outward through a weak point in the abdominal wall. An indirect hernia occurs when a portion of the intestine pushes downward into the inguinal canal, either where the testes descend into the scrotum before birth or to the labia.
Currently, the only known effective treatment for a hernia is surgery. However, a physical therapist can help. Your physical therapist will show you how to improve your breathing, movement, and lifting techniques in order to reduce strain and abdominal pressure. This reduces the risk of developing a hernia, and reduces the risk of agitating an existing one.
If you had surgery for your hernia, your physical therapist can work with you to help you work your way back to how you used to be able to function before. This can include posture exercises, body mechanic education and core strengthening through exercise.
Physical Therapy For Other Sports Injuries
Some other common injuries that physical therapy can help with are:
- Hand injuries
- Muscle, tendon, and ligament repairs
- Surgery rehabilitation
- Shoulder dislocation
- Ankle dysfunction
Book An Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy
As you can see, there’s quite a lot of applications for physical therapy in sports injuries. Regardless of your athletic level or age, the goal of physical therapy is to manage pain, improve mobility and prevent future injuries.
It can also help to optimize athletic performance.
Contact Capitol Physical Therapy to see how we can help you achieve your personalized physical health goals today.
Chronic pain or an injury holding you back? Capitol Physical Therapy can help.
Book your free 15 minute consultation today.