By Hywel Teague, 21 May 2003
I'm sat in the coffee
shop, and suddenly I can't move my head... "Oh my God- I'm paralysed..."
neck problem started a few weeks ago, but I didn't think it would be anything
this serious! Realism sets in, the panic is over and I know I'm not really paralyzed.
I sigh, and pluck up the courage to do what needs to be done- I take my chin in
my hand, and breathe out slowly, preparing myself for what is to come.
2, 3... A sharp twist to the right, followed by one to the left; Crack! Crack!
Pop! Ahhhh, that's better...
gone, I can move my head again.
with the remarkable safety record MMA has there's no denying it is a hard
sport on the body. With joint wrenching submissions and brain rattling punches,
few parts of the body are safe from attack. In a fight, the most common injuries
are small cuts and contusions. Rarely do serious injuries take place due to the
ability to submit and the vigilance of the referees.
training however, it is a different story altogether. Everyone knows the importance
of drilling a technique dozens, hundreds, thousands of times to ensure perfection.
But think about the stress this puts on an isolated part of the body. For example,
an arm is only meant to bend a certain way. But when you've got someone using
their whole body to try and take it past that 180° "comfort zone", things
can start to go wrong even if your partner is considerate of the potential damage
he could do. Repeated stress will take its toll- often leading to seemingly minor
injuries that can develop into major problems.
write this article for a few reasons-
I've been carrying a few niggling injuries lately
Quite a few of the people at my gym have the same; one unlucky soul popped their
knee recently and requires surgery.
There is a culture in our sport that seems to promote the macho ideal, the old
"warrior spirit", that its ok to train through injuries. (Although this might
not be strictly true- I think its more a case that we all love the sport too much
D) I heard a saying the other
day: That almost all "Jits" players suffer from bad knees and elbows (not to mention
the occasional cauliflower ear).
completely guilty of point C) I'm afraid. My body is telling me in no uncertain
terms that it wants a rest- "Sure," I think. "You can have 2 days off".
thinks my body. "Thanks!"
but after that you've got a 2 hour Vale Tudo session to look forward to (the reason
I'm having trouble moving my neck), and the day after that you're going to a 4
hour Greco Roman seminar. Have fun!"
now we've identified that the majority of us are mad and refuse to stop training,
what do we do about it?
always self-treatment. Most of us are familiar with the maxim RICE.
how many of us actually bother with this? "Oh, a hot bath and I'll be ok. It's
normal to feel a bit roughed up after a good session." The thing is, problems
don't just sort themselves out, and if you want to get back to training as soon
as you can then it may be best to seek professional help.
years ago, you would be hard pressed to find a physiotherapist outside of a hospital
or a top sports team. Nowadays, all you have to do is look in the yellow pages;
you'll see physios, chiropractors, osteopaths and massage therapists all offering
their services... All a bit confusing really! Which one does what? I may have
a bad knee, but is that osteopath going to help or am I better off seeing a chiropractor?
Does a massage therapist offer anything a physiotherapist can't?
I'll be able to shed some light on this conundrum and give some advice for those
of you walking/sitting/training in pain. I'm not going to offer any advice on
actually treating injuries- with this guide you should be able to find out who
does what and who you are best seeing for a given problem.
main people who can help us as mixed martial artists and fighters are as follows:
- Sports Massage Therapists
Lets take a look
at the primary roles of each:
General Practitioner is an all rounder- in the course of a day he could be treating
writing sick notes for absent school children, helping the coffin dodgers stay
warm by letting them sit in the waiting room, lancing boils and writing prescriptions
for antibiotics. The GP is your first port of call for referral into the health
service (unless you're unlucky enough to end up in casualty). GPs are not traditionally
sympathetic of sporting injuries- if you turn up on their door with a swollen
ankle from an awkward fall they will most likely turn you away with an icepack
and a shout of "next!"
If you have think
you have a bothersome non-urgent problem (e.g. You dislocated a finger, it popped
straight back in but you have been getting occasional problems with the mobility
and the joint does not seem to be as it once was), and you wish to see someone
in the NHS who specializes in that field the doctor will refer you to a hospital
where you can see a consultant. If you wish to be referred, this process can take
anywhere between weeks and months depending on the nature of your injury. To receive
some kind of treatment can take months, or even in some cases over a year.
can prescribe painkillers and may be able to offer advice on relatively simple
injuries but because of the nature of their position lack detailed knowledge of
sports-related injuries. If you find a really nice one he may even agree to drain
your "caulis" for you.
a health care profession concerned with human function and movement and maximising
- It uses physical approaches
to promote, maintain and restore physical, psychological and social well-being,
taking account of variations in health status
is science-based, committed to extending, applying, evaluating and reviewing the
evidence that underpins and informs its practice and delivery
exercise of clinical judgement and informed interpretation is at its core."
identify and maximise movement potential through health promotion, preventive
healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation."
above definition is taken from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists Curriculum
Framework (January 2002).
physio has to do three years in university, followed by a one-year course if they
wish to specialise in sports medicine. The abilities of a good physio are wide
ranging; they are able to advise on nutrition, exercise coaching, administer drugs,
and of course administer treatment for many muscular-skeletal injuries.
sports physiotherapists are true professionals when it comes to sports injuries,
and will often have an interest in the science of sport. They go through rigorous
training, are tested on practical knowledge as well as theoretical and have to
undergo strict testing if they wish to become "chartered", i.e. recognized by
the government as a "state registered" practitioner.
are able to administer treatment through a variety of methods, including "hands-on"
treatment such as massage or by mechanised modalities. Electro-physical appliances
can include heat lamps, ultra sound, microwave, electronic interferential waves,
air compression devices, and in some cases laser treatment.
benefit of seeing a physio is that they will have a deep understanding of anatomy
and the principles of sports related injuries. The downside is that being qualified
does not always "give them good hands", as a physio told me once. Because they
become so bogged down in theory, they can lose their hands-on approach and become
reliant on machinery to do their job for them. This suits some people, but many
find this a little unsettling and prefer to be subjected to traditional massage
or manipulation techniques.
If you plan
on seeing a physiotherapist, make sure you ask them if they specialise in sports
Reasons you may go to see
- Sprained joints such
as ankles, knees, shoulders, and thumbs.
muscles such as "pulled" hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, rotator cuff and groin.
- Over-use injuries such as shin splints,
runner's knee, jumper's knee or thrower's shoulder.
such as Achilles tendonitis and other tendon inflammations.
pain and patella-femoral pain.
elbow" or "golfer's elbow".
impingement and "swimmer's shoulder".
and back dysfunction.
- Chronic and
As well as
being able to provide treatment for the injury and advice on rehabilitation, a
physio can also advise on appropriate sporting equipment, protection, supports,
splints, and wrappings.
"Osteopathy is an established
recognised system of diagnosis and treatment, which lays its main emphasis on
the structural and functional integrity of the body. It is distinctive by the
fact that it recognises that much of the pain and disability, which we suffer
stems from abnormalities in the function of the body structure as well as damage
caused to it by disease."
by General Osteopathic Council, 28th October 1998]
osteopaths are generally associated with the treatment of back injuries, they
are also able to provide expert treatment of certain sports injuries.
work with their hands using a variety of techniques. These include soft tissue
techniques such as massage, joint mobilisation or high velocity techniques (often
a sudden jerking motion, much like the one I used to sort out my neck this morning).
An osteopath will have either DO (stands
for diploma in osteopathy) or BSc (Ost). after their name. They receive at least
four years training, but do not necessarily specialise in sports injuries. They
are able to assist in the treatment of sports related injuries, and often prove
invaluable for conditions relating to spinal, skeletal or joint problems.
would I need to see an Osteopath?
a disc lifting that heavy crate in work? Get yourself to see an osteopath. Wrenched
your neck and having difficulty moving your head? So long as its not snapped,
an osteopath may be able to help.
you are inured, much like a physio an osteopath will consider all the factors
which may have led up to and contributed to the problem. Sometimes what seems
to be a sport related injury had its root in an everyday occurrence, slowly taking
its toll on your body.
If you are going
to see an osteopath ask if they are a member of OSCA, the Osteopathic Sports Care
is a Chiropractor?
problems with your joints, bones and muscles, and the effects they have on your
nervous system. Working on all the joints of your body, concentrating particularly
on the spine, they use their hands to make often gentle, specific adjustments
(the chiropractic word for manipulation) to improve the efficiency of your nervous
system and release your body's natural healing ability. Chiropractic does not
involve the use of any drugs or surgery."
Federation of Chiropractic, 1999].
are very similar to Osteopaths but they tend to focus slightly more on the mechanics
of the spine, and adjustments to the body through treatment to this area. However
there is little difference between the two. Chiropractic has its origins as an
American word, whereas osteopathy is the popular British term. Both sorts of practitioner
will be able to offer you treatment relating to muscular-skeletal problems.
Massage is recorded
as one of the earliest forms of physical therapy. Evidence has suggested it dates
back as far as 3000 years or more. Sports massage concentrates on the specific
needs of an athlete, to either aid performance or as treatment to injury.
sports massage therapist uses various stroking and kneading techniques to manipulate
the muscles. Releasing tension in the muscles can aid the tendons and ligaments
attached increasing performance prior to exercise. Massage also has the added
benefit of breaking down toxins in the body and can aid flexibility.
is an effective therapy for releasing muscle tension and imbalances in the soft
tissue, which is beneficial for recovering muscles. As a stand-alone method of
treatment however, massage is very limited in what it can achieve.
are many courses available offering qualifications in sports massage. There is
a big difference in someone who has trained at a University rather than a private
college. These private courses are usually a couple of months long, and are relatively
easy to obtain. A sports massage therapist does not always have a detailed knowledge
of human anatomy, and there is no requirement to be affiliated with any association
or council in order to practise.
you are going to a massage therapist, make sure you ask that they are familiar
with sports injuries, that they have experience of dealing with them, and most
importantly that they are a member of an association such as the Society of Sports
Therapists, or the Sports Massage Association.
should I go to a Sports Massage Therapist?
stiff? Not in agony but can't quite work that knot out of your back? A massage
may be able to help. If you are suffering from non-serious tissue injury then
a massage may help, but do not fall under the spell that it is an all-encompassing
treatment. There is only so much you can do by the "laying on of hands".
A podiatrist deals mainly
with feet, but can deal with almost anything below the knee. A podiatrist is very
similar to a chiropodist. They are able to treat ailments such as infections,
ingrowing toenails or assist in the rehabilitation of fractures.
is podiatric sports medicine?
sports medicine, or sports podiatry, is the application of podiatric medical principles
to the sportsperson and the sporting environment," explains Mr David Dunning,
a podiatrist with a special interest in sports podiatry.
Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists website]
feet. Our poor, poor feet. Do you realise how much of a battering we give them
every single day? We walk on them, run on them, and jump up and down on them
Its very easy to injure your foot, as even though they bear all of our weight
they are actually quite delicate things, being made up of small easy-to-break
bones and a mass of ligaments and tendons.
well as the common problems people associate with feet, they can be responsible
for many problems that you may not realise. That back pain you've been feeling
for the past few years may actually be a result of an imbalance in your posture,
caused by your heels being out of alignment. Sound funny? I had chronic back pain
for three years until someone pointed this out to me. Not a day since have I felt
a twinge. Good eh? Problems can occur in your back, hip or knee and be directly
related to your feet.
If you have any
kind of foot or ankle injury, a podiatrist could help you.
you caught your toes leg kicking someone but catching their knee, a podiatrist
may be able to do something about the mess of broken digits at the end of your
foot. If someone popped your ankle cranking on a figure-four, they may be able
to help. If you are suffering from a consistent pain when running they should
be able to isolate and identify the problem and hopefully fix it! Even if you
can't get rid of that Athlete's Foot and your partner won't practice leg-locks
on you anymore, a podiatrist should be able to help.
you are unsure of whether you should go to see a podiatrist or not, it is probably
best to go and see a physio first as they can diagnose the problem and determine
if you would benefit from the specialised treatment a podiatrist offers.
no denying that a mouthful of teeth is much more preferable to dentures or an
oh-so-attractive smile full of gaps.
you're getting a fitted mouthpiece made, or you got your teeth kicked out and
need someone to implement damage control, a dentist is who you need to see.
No longer the preserve
of new-age hippies, there are numerous alternative therapies that have tangible
benefits, and you won't even have to wrap yourself in bandages soaked in sheep
urine or whip yourself with birch twigs under a full moon.
massage therapists may offer aromatherapy or homeopathy, but these are more "complimentary"
to massage rather than stand-alone treatments.
you are looking for something a little different to the majority of services offered,
then you would do well to explore acupuncture.
is the ancient Chinese art of inserting extremely thin needles into specific pressure
points located all over the body. Acupuncture claims to work as a remedy to all
manner of ailments, from pain relief to helping cure addictions such as smoking.
"According to traditional Chinese philosophy,
our health is dependent on the body's motivating energy-known as Qi/Chi- moving
in a smooth and balanced way through a series of meridians (channels) beneath
"Western-style or medical
acupuncture is a more recent development practiced predominantly by doctors and
physiotherapists which uses a more limited range of techniques on the basis of
a western diagnosis."
[Taken from the
British Acupuncture Council website.]
may sound a little unusual to the un-initiated, but acupuncture is a tried and
tested treatment steeped in thousands of years of practice. Many fear it because
of the use of needles, but in the number of times I have experienced acupuncture
I have never felt any pain.
leaves you in a deep sense of relaxation, as natural endorphins are released and
this can leave you a drowsy for a few hours. Its quite a strange feeling, but
not unpleasant. I liken it to that feeling you have in the moments after waking
up from an afternoon nap.
As a stand-alone
treatment, it's uncertain how beneficial it can be for someone suffering from
a common sporting injury, but as a complimentary therapy in conjunction with "traditional"
Western medicines it is certainly worth exploring.
injuries are no joke and should not be treated lightly. The amount of people I
know who disregard seeking treatment out of hand isn't funny. I have heard excuses
such as "it costs too much", to "it'll sort itself out"... These people then go
on to splash out shed-loads of money on new rash guards, training DVDs, and of
course more sessions at the gym.
the price of a new T-shirt or a couple of CDs you can see someone who could potentially
save you considerable pain, and allow you to return to the gym fighting-fit.
this guide will be of use to you- if it opens your eyes to the many options available
to you or spurs you on to biting the bullet and booking that appointment, I'll
Just remember these points
before you part with your hard earned cash:
ask if the person you are going to see is a member of a national professional
- Be cautious of someone who is
keen to book you in for return appointments without starting a proper course of
- If you are unsure of whether
the person you are going to see can actually help, give him a brief description
of the problem in your initial conversation. Just don't expect a full diagnosis
over the phone.
Now, time to book
that physio appointment - I can feel my neck getting stiff again.
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