This is the name given to several treatments in a range that offers pain relief, inflammation reduction, the increase of blood flow and the breaking down of scar tissue. You can call us to find out which treatment you need. It might be Ultrasound, Laser Treatment, Interferential or TENS… Here, though, is a brief overview of each:
The idea that you can treat deep-tissue injuries by stimulating blood circulation and cell activity is not new! But ‘Ultrasound’ is its current incarnation: high-frequency sound waves are used to help reduce pain & muscle spasm, and speed healing.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
Understandably, physiotherapists tend to abbreviate this mouthful to ‘TENS’! Attaching two electrodes to your injury lets a TENS device deliver an electrical current to it. Sounds painful, but it’s not: it’s completely safe and done in a way that creates nothing more than a tingling sensation… Some of those who speak to the benefits of TENS rather enjoy this tingling and believe it beneficially suppresses pain signals being sent to the brain. TENS is unsuitable for those with electrical implants such as pacemakers, etc.
Not a month goes by without the suggestion that this all sounds a bit too sci-fi to be of real benefit! Remember, though, that in essence a laser is just a focused beam of light. The energy from laser therapy is mostly absorbed by the membranes of cells in a poorer metabolic state in the injured area. Laser therapy aims to complement massage and other therapies in a fashion that improves proliferation and motility, and triggers white blood cells, etc.
Physiotherapy employs lasers in a couple of different ways. When you come to our Sports Injury Clinic for electrotherapy treatment, you might find we use one focused beam. At other times, though, we use the laser in a series of pulsing beams – it depends on the condition you present.
The principle behind this treatment is that low-frequency electricity stimulates peripheral nerves. In turn, this stimulates muscles, reduces swelling, relieves chronic pain, helps improve blood flow, generates nutrients and treats oedema… The latter is a pooling of fluid – very often blood – in body tissue around an injury.
IFT can be used in a way that:
- Promotes muscle relaxation
- Addresses muscle spasms
- Reduces inflammation
- Suppresses pain
Most ‘first aid’ for sports injuries suggests a system called RICE! It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. In any case, ‘taping’ falls under the heading ‘Compression’ . This helps sports injuries heal by compressing soft tissues in a way that reduces swelling around newly-injured joints. Compression’ not only protects joints but also restricts movement so as not to make matters worse.
Ordinarily we like to give as much info as possible on our website about the treatments we offer at our Sports Injury Clinic… However, athletic taping is deceptive in the simplicity of its appearance. Unqualified and incorrect taping may lead to further injury. If you feel that taping might be of benefit to you, make sure the physiotherapist you visit has extensive experience in taping and strapping, and can make sure that the…
- Injured area is in exactly the right position before taping – and that it remains so during the process.
- Correct type of tape is in use.
- Application of the tape is safe and beneficial; that it won’t worsen the condition, cause skin irritation.
- Movement in the area of the injury is beneficially controlled.
Cryotherapy is also known as cold therapy… And if you’ve ever grabbed a bag of frozen peas and iced an injury, then you’ve already tried a form of it! You can come to our Sports Injury Clinic for expert advice and professional application if you’re an athlete, or if you feel you simply can’t afford to take a chance on getting it wrong. If you want to try a home application, though – especially as ‘first aid’ – here’s our advice.
When to Use a Cold Pack:
While some sports injuries are more likely to respond to treatment with heat, those that are visibly swollen are usually better dealt with using a cold pack. Also, the age of an injury can be a factor: cryotherapy is usually applied for conditions of no more than five to six weeks’ age.
Do it Properly!
Here at the clinic, we hear plenty of stories of people throwing something from the freezer onto the injury and not being able to bear it! They then lift off the ‘pack’ and find that it’s done nothing. What’s worse, they’re often in more discomfort than they were before trying to treat it…
Our first tip is to wet a cloth – a tea-towel or tee-shirt – in cold water, and wrap up the ice pack. This stops the frozen surface directly contacting your skin… And prevents ice burns! This is what often makes applications feel unbearable. You’ll need to keep the pack steadily applied for about 15 minutes, but do check your skin every five minutes or so.
How Often Should You Do This?
There’s something of a law of diminishing returns with icing an injury. It’s really a short-term tactic and has no benefit after a few weeks. However, when first treating a new swelling, you should be able to apply a pack in 15 minute bursts. Make sure you leave at least half an hour between applications, though.
Many people with a new injury know that putting something cold on it helps reduce the swelling even if they don’t know why. But the reason is simple: an ice pack lowers the temperature of the tissues around the injury. This in turn causes the blood vessels to constrict… And that means blood circulation decreases in that area, which helps prevent swelling.
What Can You Use?
The classic ‘first aid’ solution often tends to be a bag of peas from the freezer! It doesn’t have to be peas, of course – but they do seem to be the default… Possibly that’s because they’re often sitting in the freezer anyway.. And also because, after a quick ‘scrunch’ between the hands, peas adjust rather conveniently to the size and shape of the injured area! You can’t apply a frozen turkey in quite the same way.
Perhaps inevitably, there’s an enormous range of products that are available to help you ice an injury… From disposable chemical pouches that work only once, to reusable packs of gel that go cold in a freezer – and heat up in a microwave!
Are They Any Good?
Well… Some are and some aren’t. Put it this way: we have high-end equipment for treating patients and serious conditions here at the clinic… But, in terms of immediate first aid, it’s a bag of peas for us, too!
When Shouldn’t You Use Ice?
Swelling tends to be an immediate problem, but can be an issue for five to six weeks after injury. After that it’s not really useful. In any case, under no circumstances should you treat any kind of head swelling yourself. Go to the hospital! Might you be wasting people’s time? Yes – but you pay for that time in taxes: don’t take any chances if you’ve clonked your head. Get it checked.
Those with poor circulation should give icing an injury a miss because of the way it works – see ‘Why Cold?’ above. Also, those who have poor skin sensitivity might end up doing more harm than good. The other exception to cold treatment is on your back. We give advice for back pain in our Info Sheet. However, specifically relating to cold therapy, your back will more likely respond to heat than cold. That’s because the source of back pain can be quite deep: the cold probably won’t reach it in the same way that heat does.