Cupping Therapy – Ancient History or New Age Phenomenon?

You may have heard about cupping therapy and or seen some people with the strange circle marks on their body and wondered what this ‘health and wellbeing craze’ is all about?

In this blog I explain what it is, how it works, its origins and why it has become so popular over the last few years.

What is this crazy craze?

Basically, cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine where a suction is created on the skin and is drawn each cup thereby creating a vacuum inside the cup in a specific area.

The vacuum is created by either heating and then cooling the air in the cup, or by using a mechanical pump.

The cup/s can be left on the skin anywhere between a few up to fifteen minutes and it can, among other things, help to treat different types of pain, muscle scar tissues or knots and swelling.

Cupping generally creates a tight sensation where the cup is place and often clients will find this sensation relaxing and soothing.

Depending on your individual comfort and the assessment of the problem for which you are being treated, cups may be moved around or left in place. One of the most common areas of the body to be cupped is the back, although cups work well on other areas, too such as the fleshier parts of your body like your thighs.

Cupping treatment can cause your skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially if there is an injury or blockage in the area that is being cupped. This skin discoloration can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks but it is rarely painful.

Once the marks have cleared, the procedure can be repeated until the condition or ailment is resolved.

There are different types of cupping; dry, wet and fire and the cups can come in different types of materials including glass or plastic (which are the most common); bamboo, copper or bronze.

Cupping Origins

According to online research, the practice of cupping has been performed by individuals without any medical background for over 3,000 years – from as early as 3000 BC.

The Ebers Papyrus, written c. 1550 BC and one of the oldest medical textbooks in the Western world, describes the Egyptians’ use of cupping, while mentioning similar practices employed by Saharan peoples.

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 BC) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. The method was highly recommended by Muhammad and hence well-practiced by Muslim scientists who elaborated and developed the method further. Consecutively, this method in its multiple forms spread into medicine throughout Asian and European civilizations. In China, the earliest use of cupping recorded is from the famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist, Ge Hong (281–341 A.D.)

Eventually, cupping spread to ancient cultures in many countries of Europe and even the Americas and was widely used to treat common colds and chest infections, mostly in the form of ‘wet cupping’ also known as Artificial Leeching (the therapist or practitioner makes tiny incisions in the skin to dredge the blood or poisons out).

By the late 1800’s, cupping began to lessen in popularity and was discredited by newly established scientific methods of medicine that focused on treating the inside of the body as opposed to the outside. As cupping was a skin treatment, it was inconsistent with the new scientific medicine.

The Cupping Therapy Revival!

A wealth of celebrities including Olympic swimming gold medallist Michael Phelps, US gymnast Alex Naddour, boxer Anthony Joshua, reality star Kim Kardashian, actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, fashion icon Victoria Beckham and more have been reported to have used the therapy for various treatments of aches and pains, so it’s not difficult to see why cupping has become popular again.

Although there is limited research to confirm the effectiveness of this ancient therapy treatment, YouGov research finds that many people – in several cases a firm majority – remain positive about the effectiveness of alternative medicines. Even for treatments with no scientific or professional recognition, public opinion is divided at worst.

I believe that doing your research and understanding what treatments are available, including alternative ones, is the only way that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not something is right for you.

If you would like to find out more about the cupping or other treatments that I provide at Lifestyle Therapies and whether or not it would be beneficial for you, please get in contact.

Therapy Programme vs One-Off Treatment

When we experience an injury or physical stress to our bodies, depending on the severity, it can be tempting to just use pain-killers and hope for the best!

Unfortunately, some injuries if left unattended, can recur and become chronic if you don’t get the right treatment at the right time.

Reduced mobility, lack of sleep, mental and physical stress, recurring and increasing pain to name just a few, are some of the ongoing symptoms you may experience in this instance.

The different options available to help you overcome your injury can be wide and varied and this article aims to help you understand when an ongoing programme is required vs a one-off treatment.

One-Off Treatments

A deep tissue, therapeutic or sports massage therapy aims to alleviate any type of muscle stress you experience after exercising, participating in sport or if you have a labour-intensive job, that has caused a repetitive strain.

These sessions, when implemented within a few days of the injury or pain occurring can really aid in relieving the stress that your muscles have experienced.

Having regular massage treatments, can also aid generally in maintaining a healthy body and mind, reducing stress, maintaining mobility and aiding restful sleep.

So, the benefits of taking care of your body in this way clearly allow you to remain focused and productive in your day to day life, which is something we all strive to achieve.

Therapy Programmes

Undertaking a therapy programme which will be a combination of massage and exercise is usually needed for severe injuries that have a detrimental effect on your mobility or ability to perform your job, sport, exercise or day-to-day tasks effectively.

The programme will be designed and tailored to your specific injury, with a focus on targeting the core challenges that you experience from the injury, such as difficulty walking or weakness when using any of your limbs, recurring and/or increasing pain, inability to do your day-to-day job or perform everyday essential duties.

Most programmes will include support for intervention, rehabilitation and improving performance to ensure that you’re needs, and goals are met by the end of the treatment programme.

On average they can last anywhere from one to six months or more depending on the extent of your pain or injury and your therapist will guide you accordingly.

Deciding on Your Course of Treatment or Therapy

It is always essential that you have a consultation with your therapist before your treatment or therapy begins, so that you understand the option being recommended and that you are happy with the expected outcomes.

Most therapists offer a complimentary consultation when you book your treatment and this is a service that we also offer at Lifestyle Therapies because we want to ensure that you are fully aware of what we recommend and why we feel the treatment will be the most effective in aiding your recovery, rehabilitation and overall performance.

If you have any questions or would like to book a consultation, please feel free to contact me today!

The Effects of Stress on Your Body, Mood & Behaviour!

The last few decades have seen a sharp increase in the level of stresses that we are facing on a day to day basis, with job demands increasing; work/life balance challenging to manage and; an overall decline in health and wellness impacting our everyday levels of productivity!

It’s not hard to see why so many more people are suffering from the effects of stress.

The impact of this on your body, mood and behaviour can be overwhelming

Effects on your body/health:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleeplessness / insomnia
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Effects on your mood:

  • Being over anxious
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression

Effects on your behaviour:

  • Overeating or undereating
  • Anger or disruptive behaviour
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Smoking excessively
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Reduction in exercise

Understanding the signs of stress and anxiety and taking steps to manage how you feel will benefit your health hugely. Techniques such as:

  • Undertaking regular physical activity helps to increase your ‘happy hormones’ – endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, making you less stressed and improving your fitness, health and lifestyle.
  • Regularly focusing on relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or getting a massage will help to re-align your mood and your behaviour and focus more positively.
  • Maintaining your sense of humour, socialising with family and friends and setting aside time for your hobbies, including reading books and listening to music, helps you to focus on having fun and making time for yourself so that you don’t get overwhelmed with work or other stresses that may occur.

Finding ways to manage your stress on a regular basis and taking time out to look after yourself are crucial to ensuring that stress doesn’t get out of control and cause an ongoing negative effect on your body or your health.

The old remedies are always the best. So, getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy balanced diet, a good deal of exercise, massage and avoiding those vices that you know are not good for you such as smoking, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol and using illegal substances, will help to reduce your stress levels and the potential of any worse effects!

Tom’s 6 tips for Coping with Back Pain part 2

We hope you read last week’s post about of ‘Tom’s 5 Tips for Coping with Back Pain’

There are several causes of back pain. Lower back pain is an exceptionally common condition in which an estimated half to three-quarters of the adult population will experience at least one memorable episode of back pain per year and up to 1 in 10 will develop chronic back pain.

Acute back pain, which resolves within weeks, is typically attributed to the soft connective tissues. Once pain goes beyond three months, it is considered chronic and the physiology of this pain can become quite complex.

Chronic back pain is typically attributed to traumatic or degenerative conditions, and may include a variety of physiologic, psychological, and social influences.

 

So, part 2 of this article provides another 6 tips to improving your lower back pain:

 

 

If you follow all 11 tips you are amazing! Enjoy your new and improved pain free back and a happier and healthier lifestyle

If you’ve covered all tips and feel amazing, let me know, but if you’re still lost in pain and need further advice. Get in contact.

I’m always happy to help.

Tom’s 5 Tips for Coping with Back Pain part 1

 

Pain in the lower back is a very common condition that the NHS has to deal with but what if I told you there are many ways to cope with back pain and without consulting with your GP or stepping into a hospital.

According to Arthritis research UK, 4 out of 5 people are affected by back pain at some point in time. Undeniably, back pain is the second most common cause of absence from work in Britain, says the Charity “BackCare”, with four million working days lost to back pain each year, this is often cause by a simple strain or sprain from a muscle, tendon or ligament.

For more ways to cope with lower back pain come back next week to read about some more I have tips for you.

What’s the difference between Physiotherapy and Sport therapy part 2?

 

Here is part 2, all you need to know about Physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy aims to improve your mobility by using physical methods such as massage, manipulation and exercise.

There are a number of conditions that physiotherapy is used to relieve or treat. These include conditions affecting the joints, muscles and bones after injury. It can also help with conditions that affect your lungs, heart circulation, nerves and brain. Physiotherapy is often used to improve the range of joint movements and strengthen muscles. It can also help you recover from surgery.

Anyone can have physiotherapy, and it can take place in a number of different settings and locations. This includes hospitals, outpatient clinics, homes, schools, hospices, workplaces and fitness centers.

What can physiotherapy help with?

Physiotherapy can help with a number of conditions. Common complaints include:

Abdominal conditions – Including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), spastic colon and colitis.

Chest problems – Including surgical and medical issues such as cystic fibrosis, pneumonia and asthma.

Circulation problems – Including ulcers, deep wounds, cardiac rehabilitation and Raynaud’s disease.

Fractures – The therapy aims to improve the rate of healing and help you gain full function in recovery.

Gynaecological conditions – Including post-surgery rehabilitation, salpingitis and stress incontinence.

Injuries – Including sports related injuries such as tendon, cartilage and ligament damage. Also work-related conditions such as repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Joint problems – Including stiffness, pain, swelling, injury and arthritis.

Neurological problems – Including ME, multiple sclerosis, shingles, stroke, nerve injuries and head injuries.

Obstetrics – Including treatment for back pain during pregnancy and ante and post-natal exercises.

Paediatrics – Including walking and postural problems for children.

Post-surgery – The therapy can be used for rehabilitation purposes after orthopaedic surgery. For example, knee and hip replacements.

Spinal problems – Including sciatica, prolapsed discs, stiff neck and lumbago.

Physiotherapists will have a general grounding in all of these areas. However, some may choose to specialise in a certain condition. For example, if you are looking to recover from a serious sports injury, it may be beneficial to look for a physiotherapist that specialises in the rehabilitation of such injuries.

What happens during a session?

In your first session you will discuss your problems with your physiotherapist. Then what you want from the therapy, such as increased movement in a certain joint. Your physiotherapist will need your will help determine any previous health worries or injuries that may affect the treatment.

Your physiotherapist will then begin to examine the areas of your body that you are having problems with. They may require you to remove your clothing around the area of investigation.

After the examination, your physiotherapist will suggest the course of therapy to undertake. They will give you an overview including what they will do, how they will do it and how many sessions you will need. When treating an illness, your physiotherapist may advise you on how to minimise the effect of the illness on daily life. For injuries, they will advise you on how to prevent them from recurring.

Physiotherapy techniques

Depending on the problem, your physiotherapist will use a range of different techniques. They include:

Massage

To improve circulation, your physiotherapist may use massage. This can be used to drain excess fluid from your lymphatic system. Using their hands with light pressure, they will carry out a number of slow movements.

Massage can also be used to complement other types of physiotherapy. For example, to relax your muscles and reduce pain, your physiotherapist may focus on your ligaments, tendons and muscles. They may use stroking and kneading movements. The movements may have differing amounts of pressure for the desired effect.

Manipulation

When your physiotherapist is using manipulation, they will move your specific joint in a very precise manner. It is common for them to move it further than it usually would. In order to do this, they may apply a small amount of pressure. The use of manipulation aims to reduce stiffness and pain. A qualified therapist should always do this as wrong movements can cause further damage.

Ambulation exercises

These exercises are employed to help you regain or improve your ability to walk. Typically, the process starts with you trying to walk while holding on to bars for assistance. After a number of sessions you may move on to walking with less assistance, such as a walking stick or frame. Once your physiotherapist has made the decision, you may move on to navigating stairs and curbs.

Motion exercises

Motion exercises are used to increase your range of motion. Stroke, staying stationary for long periods of time or injury can all affect your flexibility. You also lose your range of motion as you age. The exercises used will differ depending on the severity of your case and the reason for your lack of motion. They do, however, tend to incorporate repeated moves and stretches to increase your movement.

Exercises to strengthen muscles

The exercises employed to strengthen your muscles will enable you to exercise for longer. In some instances, they are also used to strengthen your core. The muscles in your core are integral for maintaining balance and good posture. These exercises typically include resistance training.

Co-ordination exercises

Co-ordination exercises aim to improve your balance and co-ordination. The movements that are often used in this type of exercise are repeated a number of times. For example, you may be asked to repeatedly pick up something and put it down again. These are particularly helpful for brain injuries or stroke.

Transfer training

Transfer training incorporates exercises for the easy transition from one position to another. For example, from lying in your bed to sitting on a chair, or from sitting to standing. This is integral for some to regain their independence. Your physiotherapist will teach and assist you in a number of techniques to achieve this.

Hydrotherapy

This is a form of water-based physiotherapy and is usually carried out in a hydrotherapy pool. The warm water helps to relieve pain and the buoyancy eases stress on the joints. You do not need to know how to swim to enjoy the benefits as you will be supported and your head will not be under the water at any time.

Electrotherapy

This uses a small electric current that makes your muscles contract. It doesn’t hurt – the sensation is often described as ‘tingly’. There are a number of different kinds of electrotherapy, including:

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). TENS sends a mild electrical current to stop the nerves sending pain signals to the brain. This instead encourages endorphins (natural painkilling hormones) to be released.

  • Ultrasound. High frequency sound waves treat deep tissues by promoting blood circulation.

  • Laser therapy. Narrow beams of light help reduce pain and muscle spasms. This isn’t suitable during pregnancy, for cancer patients or those taking certain kinds of medication.

  • Shortwave diathermy. An electromagnetic field which generates heat in the body’s tissue. This can help reduce swelling, strengthen tissue and reduce pain.

  • Interferential therapy. Electrical pads are placed on the affected areas of your body to stimulate your nerves. The aim of this method is to temporarily reduce swelling and encourage blood flow.

  • Biofeedback. Electrical pads are used to monitor your balance, muscles and posture.

  • Functional electrical stimulation (FES). FES employs the use of electric pulses to move your muscles if the supplying nerves are damaged.

Pilates

The gentle movement and stretching of Pilates can be incorporated into exercise programmes as part of the treatment.

Your first session will last around an hour. Subsequent sessions will last around 30 to 45 minutes. Your physiotherapist may also do some diagnostic tests to assess your strengths and weaknesses. This will help them better evaluate your condition.

Acupuncture within physiotherapy

A growing area of interest within the physiotherapy industry is medical acupuncture. Many physiotherapists are now training in acupuncture to form an integrated approach to pain management.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine, sterilised needles into certain points of the body. Part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), this practice dates back as far as 1000 years BC. It is based around the idea that blocked energy or ‘Qi’, can cause illness. Chinese acupuncture aims to relieve these blockages and thus restore balance within the body.

Western medical acupuncture on the other hand is based on clinical research. It suggests the practice eases pain by stimulating the brain and spinal cord. Physiotherapists tend to incorporate medical acupuncture (rather than Chinese acupuncture) into their treatment plan to help manage pain for those with musculoskeletal issues.

Physiotherapy misconceptions

There are a number of common myths that surround physiotherapy. Here we look to address a selection of the most common ones:

I need a referral to see a physiotherapist

You will not need a referral from your GP to see a private physiotherapist. Though if you are looking to claim your session back on health insurance, some may require a doctor’s referral.

The therapy is painful

Many people think that physiotherapy will be painful. That is not the case. Occasionally you may experience a brief amount of pain. This is typically when the physiotherapist assesses you and tests pain boundaries. They are aware of what will cause pain and will always notify you about the possibility. Any discomfort will be a part of the healing process. You just need to remember that your therapist’s goal is to get you better, not to prolong the injury or make it worse.

It is only good for sports injuries

Physiotherapy is often associated with sports injuries and treating athletes. This is because the majority of teams have a specific role for a physiotherapist. However, its uses extend far beyond the sports field. It can be used for everyone, for a variety of conditions.

Physiotherapists are the same as personal trainers

Physiotherapists and personal trainers or fitness advisers are not the same profession. Although physiotherapists will most likely know a great deal around the subject of health and fitness, they predominantly focus on remedying injuries or pain.

Conclusion

As we have examined, the two professions share many similarities and overlap in their treatment programs which leads to patients being unsure whether they would be best suited to physiotherapy or sports therapy. However, there are some key differences:

  • Physiotherapists have a broader knowledge base and medical background, which allows them to treat illnesses, diseases, neurological and respiratory issues. This makes them ideal for treating a wide range of patients, including complex patients with multiple conditions.

  • Sports therapists generally have more exposure to sporting environments at an undergraduate level making them ideal for preventing sports injuries through specific strengthening programs.

  • Physiotherapy attempts to rehabilitate patients to allow them to feel comfortable and cope in their day-to-day life, whereas Sports therapy on the other hand focus’s more on whether that the patient has returned to or can maintain the required physical level for whatever sporting activity they would like to carry out.

  • As Sports therapists focus solely on musculoskeletal rehabilitation and have a sports focused background, it makes them attractive to patients who are aiming to return to exercise.

It is important to remember that these are generalizations about the two professions and that it often isn’t a straight choice between physiotherapy or sports therapy. Many Physiotherapists specialize in sports rehabilitation and many Sports Therapists have experience in other areas of rehabilitation.

What’s the difference between Physiotherapy and Sport therapy part 1?

 

As it’s quite detailed the articles have been split into two, so we’re starting off by explaining about Sports Therapy.

Part 1

The short answer is that both professions are trained and insured to treat musculoskeletal disorders back but there are some key differences in their training and approach. In this article, we give an overview of the two professions, outlining their similarities and differences to help you identify the most appropriate practitioner to aid you back to optimal fitness.

As we all know, a key part of staying healthy is physical exercise – whether this is done on a treadmill at the gym or outside on a football pitch. If you are a keen fitness enthusiast, ensuring you are exercising safely is crucial. Having said this, even the most careful of us can sometimes succumb to injury.

Sports injuries can be caused by a variety of things including not warming up properly, pushing yourself too hard or simply suffering an accident. When injuries happen, they usually require you to stay off your feet and rest up while you heal. When exercise or sport is a big part of your life, recovering from injury and returning to normal function is paramount.

This is where sports therapy comes in. A sports therapist aims to provide care for sport and recreational participants to help them recover as quickly and fully as possible. On this page we’ll look at what sport therapy entails, common sports injuries and different treatments that may be used.

What is sports therapy?

There is often confusion regarding the difference between physiotherapy and sports therapy as they both deal with similar health concerns. While sports therapists do apply physiotherapy skills, sports therapy is specifically concerned with the prevention and treatment of sport-related injuries using a variety of modalities and techniques.

Another common misconception is that sports therapists only work with professional athletes – this is not true. No matter what your occupation is (or your sporting ability), if your injury is sports/exercise related, a sports therapist will look to help you.

Utilizing the principles of sport sciences, the therapy uses various techniques, such as sports massage, to help fully rehabilitate those with injuries. As well as helping you to recover from injury, a sports therapist will also use their skills to optimize your performance and support you in your sporting/exercise endeavors.

Common sports injuries

When you exercise or play sports regularly, certain parts of the body can become susceptible to strain or injury. While of course exercise is beneficial to your health, it is important to be aware of some common sports injuries. If you feel pain somewhere in your body when exercising or playing a sport, be sure to seek medical advice as you may have injured yourself.

Listed below are some common sports injuries to be aware of:

Back injuries

Many people will suffer from back pain at some point in their life, whether it’s due to a recurring problem or bad posture. Those who exercise regularly may also encounter back problems. The most common of which is muscle strains and ligament sprains. Athletic over-use, insufficient stretching or even trauma can cause these sorts of sprains.

Another common injury in sport enthusiasts is spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis. Defects of a vertebra’s pars interarticularis are called spondylolysis and the slippage of one vertebra in relation to another vertebra is called spondylolisthesis. These injuries are normally seen in those who participate in sports that involve a degree of twisting and hyperextension of the spine (for example, gymnastics).

Ankle and foot injuries

Other parts of the body that can cause problems for regular exercisers are the ankles and feet. Ankle sprains are perhaps the most common of these sorts of injuries, especially for those who run and jump when they exercise. Turf toe (pain at the base of the big toe) is another well-known injury and is common for those who play sport on artificial turf. Breaks and fractures are less common, but can occur as a result of trauma or severe over-use.

Knee injuries

Knees can cause health problems for many people and knee pain is a common complaint for sport participants. There are several different causes for knee pain including:

      • arthritis

      • ligament injuries

      • cartilage injuries

      • meniscal tears

      • tendonitis

      • dislocated kneecap.

Uncovering the root cause of knee pain is important – if left untreated it can lead to recurring issues and may impact your ability to play sport in the future.

Hip injuries

The hips are part of our core and are central to many movements the human body makes. Common causes for pain in this area include inflammation of the joint and muscle strains. Again, these conditions can occur due to over-use and trauma. Stress fractures in the hip are another complaint – these are most prevalent in those who participate in high-impact sports, such as long distance running.

Wrist injuries

If the sport you play involves wrist action (for example tennis or basketball), you may find yourself susceptible to wrist injuries. Sprains and tendonitis are typical examples, however long-term conditions such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome can also cause problems.

Elbow injuries

Similarly to wrist injuries, sports that require a lot of arm movement also leave you susceptible to elbow pain. One of the best-known sporting injuries in this category is known as tennis elbow (official name – lateral epicondylitis). This condition involves pain over the outside of the joint and can make it difficult for the sufferer to grip objects. Despite its name, most patients with this condition don’t play tennis.

Other elbow injuries include fractures from trauma and nerve compression (radial tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are typical examples). As with other joint injuries/conditions, if left untreated elbow pain can become a recurring issue that may affect your ability to participate in sport.

Shoulder injuries

The shoulder is a complex part of the body and therefore can be the cause of many sports injuries. The rotator cuff in particular is often affected, with tendonitis of the cuff and tears seen regularly by sports therapists.

Another condition called frozen shoulder can also be a problem. This is where the joint stiffens and almost locks, inhibiting mobilisation. On the flip side of this, shoulder instability is a problem that makes the shoulder joint loose and prone to dislocation.

What will happen when I see a sports therapist?

While sports therapists may use different approaches and techniques, generally your treatment will follow this format:

      • initial consultation

      • assessment

      • treatment

      • rehabilitation

      • prehabilitation.

Initial consultation

During your initial consultation, your sports therapist will look to find out more about you and why you are there. You may be asked some questions about your lifestyle, medical history and any other relevant information (for example previous injuries and treatment). When your therapist has detailed information about your background, they will be better able to assess you. This is also an opportunity for you to get to know the therapist better and ask any questions you may have about their experience.

Assessment

This part of the process will help your sports therapist understand what your injury is and how best to treat it. The assessment may involve physical elements such as checking your posture, functional movements and ligament stability tests. Normally you will be referred to a doctor to receive an official diagnosis. Once the diagnosis has been made, the treatment can begin.

Treatment

Once you have agreed on a treatment plan together, your sports therapists will carry this out. There are many different treatments that can be used and some may take a multidisciplinary approach. If you are unsure what your treatment will entail, be sure to raise this with your therapist.

Rehabilitation

Depending on the nature of your condition/injury, sports rehabilitation may be required. Rehabilitation aims to help you manage your condition until you are returned to full health (if this is viable). Your sports therapist can guide you through this, offering tips and advice to help you cope in everyday life.

Prehabilitation

Within sports therapy the term prehabilitation relates to keeping you injury free in the future. Giving you advice and suggested exercises to carry out, your sports therapist can help you avoid the same injury in the future.

Sports therapy treatments

Sports therapy utilizes a number of techniques to help ease pain and encourage recovery. While the specific treatment used will depend on the nature of your injury and your own personal history, the following techniques are commonly used:

      • massage

      • mobilisation

      • myofascial release

      • electrotherapy

      • hot/cold treatment.

Massage

Many sports therapists will be able to offer sports massage and/or remedial massage to help reduce aches and pains from training, treat soft-tissue injuries and encourage blood flow to the muscles. Within the realm of massage there are many different techniques that are used, including:

Effleurage – A term used to describe a series of light massage strokes that warm up the muscles before deeper work begins.

Petrissage – A stronger technique that kneads the soft tissue to work out knots, improve blood flow and loosen muscles.

Tapotement – This method is a rhythmic movement, usually using the side of the hand or tips of the fingers. This action is used to ‘wake-up’ the nervous system and encourage lymphatic drainage.

Neuromuscular techniques – Helping to treat pain, this technique involves applying concentrated pressure to muscle areas to break the cycle of spasm and pain.

Positional release – This is a specialised technique that requires the therapist to locate the tender joint/tendon/ligament in the body and then positioning it in a certain way to ‘release’ the tension and pain.

Mobilisation

Mobilisation is a manual therapy that is designed to help restore joint movement and range of motion in the event of joint dysfunction. The sports therapist will gently move the joint in a passive way within the limit of the joint’s normal range of motion. This kind of movement needs to be very specific and gentle, so must be carried out by a qualified professional. If joint dysfunction is left untreated, it can cause muscle spasm, pain and fatigue.

Myofascial release

Also known as soft tissue mobilisation, myofascial release is used to release tension build up in the fascia. Fascia are sheets of fibrous tissue that surround muscles, separating them into groups. When a trauma occurs, the fascia can shorten, restricting movement and blood flow.

Techniques used in myofascial release look to break up any adhesions and relax muscle tension. This helps to reduce pain and restore normal range of movement.

Electrotherapy

Some sports therapists may use electrotherapy in your treatment. This covers a range of treatments, including TENS and laser treatment. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machines transmit a small electric charge to the muscles via a small patch worn on the skin. These are known to help with certain types of pain and can be used as an alternative to (or alongside) painkillers.

Hot/cold treatment

The short answer is that both professions are trained and insured to treat musculoskeletal disorders back but there are some key differences in their training and approach. In this article, we give an overview of the two professions, outlining their similarities and differences to help you identify the most appropriate practitioner to aid you back to optimal fitness.

As we all know, a key part of staying healthy is physical exercise – whether this is done on a treadmill at the gym or outside on a football pitch. If you are a keen fitness enthusiast, ensuring you are exercising safely is crucial. Having said this, even the most careful of us can sometimes succumb to injury.

Sports injuries can be caused by a variety of things including not warming up properly, pushing yourself too hard or simply suffering an accident. When injuries happen, they usually require you to stay off your feet and rest up while you heal. When exercise or sport is a big part of your life, recovering from injury and returning to normal function is paramount.

This is where sports therapy comes in. A sports therapist aims to provide care for sport and recreational participants to help them recover as quickly and fully as possible. On this page we’ll look at what sport therapy entails, common sports injuries and different treatments that may be used.

In the next article we will discuss Physiotherapy, so look out for that soon.

What causes Exercises Induced muscle CRAMPS and how to prevent them!

Exercise induced muscle cramps (EAMC’s) is an extremely common condition affecting between 30% – 90% of the general population. I am one of many people to be affected by EAMC’s and after constant trail and error on myself I have found the cause of my own dilemma. One of the causes is long distance events which has inspired me to research the cause of cramping and how to manage and prevent during exercise.

Why do we cramping during exercise?

The “Sodium” theory

This theory suggests that there is a compelling disruption in the fluid or electrolyte balance, usually due to the reduction in the body’s sodium storage thus creates contractions around the muscle causing a misfire of nerve impulses which leads to EAMC’s.

There was a study in 2005 with the sole purpose to understand (suggested rephrasing – A study in 2005 aimed to investigate…) the influence of hydration and electrolyte supplementation on the incidence (not sure what this means?) and time to onset of exercise associated muscle cramp. It was found that when
there is an electrolyte deficit in the plasma then the body is more likely to cramp.

A further look into the study showed that the experiment took part on 13 healthy men who were put through vigorous activity and found no beneficial difference between the two trials. The only difference showed with 2 of the men, which means the trial was mostly inconclusive to the correlation of hydration to dehydration.

I wouldn’t conclude that this theory has no bearing because the study itself was small and the fitness levels or general lifestyle of the participants previous to the experiment wasn’t taken into account. In addition everyone has their optimum level of hydration and supplementation so this can easily affect how susceptible you are to EAMC’s within this theory. So what I would take from this study is that it would be beneficial to trial certain drinks and see what or how it affects you when you exercise. Taking my own
experience into account I found that when I drank certain energy drinks before and during a spin session, I would not cramp up as much or at all unlike when I trialled other drinks just so I could see the difference in myself.

The Neuromuscular theory

This Theory explains that the muscle overload and neuromuscular fatigue are the root causes of EAMC’s. The rationale is that fatigue supplies an imbalance between the excitatory impulses from the muscle spindle and inhibitory impulses from the Golgi tendon organ. This then results in localized muscle cramp.

To put it simplier, the localized muscle cramps occur when they are overworked and fatigued due to electrical misfiring from the nervous system to the muscular system.

One factor in considering the neuromuscular theory is that stretching and moving the muscle inside and outside of the competitive environment is the universal way to fix cramps. What stretching does is put the muscle on stretch. By achieving this it activates the muscle spindle within each individual muscle fibre and doing so will interfere with the misfiring of the EAMC’s impulses.

How to avoid cramping during exercise

Well at this point in time science cannot provide single answer to the solution of cramps, the best way for you to find your solution is through trial and error.

Suggestions to reduce the chances of getting EAMC’s

Here are some examples I have found helpful when training for my events:

• Train especially for the the event that induces muscle cramps. Make sure you combine the correct amount of volume and intensity to prepare your body for the event

• Pace yourself appropriately if you overload your muscles too much too soon then you will
struggle to improve your muscle condition to prevent cramping.

• Taper to the event – make sure that when its time for you to compete you are fresh, ready and good to go.

• Make sure you are adequately fuelled with a wealth of carbohydrates and during the activity avoid becoming glycogen depleted External strategies

Other strategies that have been used by professional athletes to help them find the solution to their cramps include:

• Sauna
• Sports massage
• Stretching
• Acupuncture
• Warm up (properly)
• Mental relaxation techniques

Albeit the solution to exercise induced cramps are far from complete. I cannot say there is one definite answer but if you try a combination of all of these you will see a difference in your EAMC’s. But I hope the suggestions raised in this blog will help you narrow down the cause of your cramps.

Can you Sleep? 

Sleep Disorders are a common problem for many people and will affect them one time or another in their lives. Causes are usually down to stress, illness, temporary interruptions to your normal routine or travel. If a sleep problem is a regular occurrence and is interfering with your daily lifestyle, you may be suffering with a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders can affect you day and night and can take a serious strain on your mental and physical health. This can lead to weight gain, can affect your energy and mood, as well as even causing memory problems. However, don’t despair; it doesn’t have to become a part of your life in this day and age, as there has been thousands of studies to help you get a good night sleep which will help improve your health.

Many of us experience occasional sleep problems, so how do we know if it is just a minor passing annoyance or a sign of a sleep disorder?

Firstly, we have to eliminate any medical conditions such as;

• Heart burn

• Heart failure

• Diabetes

• Kidney disease

• Nocturne

• Breathing problems

• Mental health disease

• Neurological disorders

The best way to tell if you have a sleep disorder is to take a look into the daytime signs.

• Feeling sleepy or irritable during the day

• Having difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching a screen or reading

• Falling asleep or feeling tired while driving

• Having difficulty while concentrating

• When others tell you “you look tired”

• Having slow reactions

• Having trouble controlling your emotions

• Feeling like you need a nap almost every day

• Requiring a caffeinated beverage to keep yourself going

If you said ‘yes’ to any of these symptoms on a regular basis, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. The more you have answered ‘yes’, the more likely you have a sleep disorder.

There are many types of sleep disorders. Some of the most common are:

Insomnia

Insomnia is the inability to sleep or sleep well at night. This can be caused by stress, jet lag, health conditions, medication or caffeine. Other causes can be depression or anxiety.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a sleep disorder that causes an irresistible urge to move your legs (or arms) at night. The urge to move occurs when your resting or lying down and is usually due to uncomfortable creeping, aching, tingling or some sort of sensation.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy involves excessive, uncontrollable day time sleepiness. It is caused by a dysfunction in the mechanics of the brain that control sleeping and waking.

How massage can help you get a restful and restorative sleep?

Massage can help in a number of ways to help you sleep better and should be used in combination with other treatments to help improve your sleep.

Massage can help boost your Serotonin levels, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Serotonin is usually low in people who struggle to stay asleep and as a result are awake throughout the night.

Massage can also lower your Cortisol levels (Cortisol is also known as a major stress hormone). If you have a high level of Cortisol this can disrupt your sleep patterns in a major way. It can keep you up all night. If you are able to fall asleep it can wake you in the middle of the night and prevent you from falling to sleep.

Massage is commonly used to reduce pain. There are certain types of treatments the LIFESTYLE clinic uses to reduce pain. If pain is what is keeping you up at night then by increasing the blood flow to the muscles, releasing the build up of tension in the muscles and releasing natural pain killers already stored within the body, this is used to help you relax physically and mentally.

 

Tight Hamstrings?

Tight or stiff hamstrings is a common injury I find in my day to day work. Anyone with tight hamstrings can try stretching on a daily basis, but they will find that this has no effect.

The usual way people determine their hamstring flexibility is whether they can bend from the hips and touch their toes. Most professionals will use this in their assessment to get a picture of how the body moves. For those that think that bending by the hips and touching their toes helps the hamstrings, they will find out later in this blog that this isn’t a true representation of hamstring flexibility. This is because far more muscle groups are involved than most think to accomplish this task.

The reason it is beneficial for a professional to observe you touch your toes, is so that they can see exactly how your anterior and posterior chain functions. Simply put, to see how free your spine and hip interact; with this information you can see if the hamstrings relax to a reasonable length.

After we assess the movements of the hip and spine we can then look into the diaphragm, pelvic floor and intercostal muscle, as these too have the ability to impact your toe-touch motion. If there is good motion in the hips, but not much thought the spine, then we expand the assessment to other areas of the body that help forward flexion. It is quite normal to feel very quick changes as a result, which is perceived as hamstring flexibility but actually could be an improvement in the muscles within the posterior chain. Through this, we then begin to see the full range of motion in the hamstring as previous muscles that can inhibit the hamstring flexibility are removed.

If the Spinal movement is good and we can see the hamstring and hip movement is restricted, we will then move onto posterior knee stability.

Posterior knee stability

When you walk or run your hamstrings are used along with your gastrocnemius to stabilise the knee through an isometric contraction. This is to prevent the knee from bending as our foot hits the ground through initial contact. The stiffness in the hamstring is needed to help you absorb the force when the foot hits the ground and ensures the power you are generating in your hips is not wasted, and so, generates forward motion.

If there is no stiffness in the hamstrings and gastrocnemius, then these two muscle groups start to work harder than they need to during low impact work and this then starts to create a feeling of constant tension, with a feeling that it always needs to be stretched.

So, if this is occurring in your hamstrings and you’re trying to stretch, but no matter how long and how many times you do it you feel nothing is working, then most likely it is not your hamstrings at fault. If you treat the symptoms and not the cause, it will be harder for you to reach your desired results.