Posts

Pain Management Made Easy

For most, the term “pain management” creates haunting visions of pain medicine, drastic lifestyle changes and expensive doctor bills. In the sports medicine world, that same phrase paints a much rosier image.

“Not all pain is created equal.”  Different types of tissue in your body can generate varying types of pain. Here’s a list of body tissues, which can all be located in the same small part of a joint, and the different types of “pain” sensed in each:

Nerves – Burning, numbness, shooting, weakness.

Bone – Stabbing, deep ache, shooting.

Muscle – Cramping, stabbing, shooting, aching.

Ligament – Instability, snapping, stabbing.

Cartilage – Catching, stabbing, pinching.

I never really thought about how many different type of pain I can feel“, you’re probably thinking.

One of the biggest challenge facing a physical therapist, athletic trainer and doctor is asking the right types of questions and interpret their tests to find the source of pain in their patients.  Pain management starts with finding where the pain is coming from.

Think about it this way: If we, the sports medicine specialist, can quickly determine that 90% of your pain is coming from, say, your supraspinatus muscle of your shoulder’s rotator cuff, we can quickly develop a rehab plan to reduce your specific pain.

Pain Management Plan

It’s time to stop focussing on pain pills as the solution for reducing pain in orthopedic injuries.  Sure, check with your doctor to get his/her thoughts but know there are many safer, cheaper and effective ways to use physical therapy to reduce your pain.

Ice

Ice will reduce pain and swelling.  Ice will hurt at first but it works.  Toughen up and try icing your pain for at least 6 times before judging it’s results.  Ice can change your life.

Methods of icing:

Ice Bucket – Place the injured/sore body part into a bucket of ice water. It’s an aggressive way to ice but the benefits are quick and lasting. Timing: 10 minutes max.

Ice Bags/Packs – Wrap with an ace bandage to add compression.  Timing: 15 minutes max.
Ice Massage – Peeling down a paper cup filled with frozen water is the best way to ice a localized area of pain.  Timing: 10 minutes max.

Massage

Massage will increase blood flow into a body part while increasing the lymphatic drainage out of an area of discomfort.

Flexibility

Good old stretching will lengthen tissue such as muscles, joints and fascia to reduce the pressure on nerves and painful soft-tissue while enhancing the blood flow into your entire extremity.

Hydro Therapy

When it comes to reducing pain, hydro therapy can consist of using a hot tub, cold tub, hot show, cold shower, cold mountain stream or a combo of both hot and cold water. The benefits of hydro therapy can range from relaxing painful tissue, numbing a body part, tricking the nervous system, altering the blood flow to an extremity and/or blocking the sensation of pain.

That last sentence may sound out of character or even barbaric when discussing a “medical” topic. The truth is I’m a huge fan of hydro therapy because it has a way of healing the body in a peculiar manner when other more scientific techniques fail.

Ending Ice Bag….

In closing, pain doesn’t have to be part of your day. Challenge yourself to find safe and effective ways to put pain in your rearview mirror. Initially, eliminating your pain completely may not be a realistic option.  But just think how much better your lifestyle will be if you used these techniques to reduce both the intensity and the frequency of your pain by just 50%?!

NOW is the time to rewrite your Pain Management Plan.  Let me know how I can help you to beat your pain the smart way.

Cold Truth About Ice Therapy

To convince my patients, fellow #SpartanRace athletes and friend that ice therapy works, I simply tell them: “Ice is your best friend”!

Ice is cheap, easy to use, mobile, effective and, most importantly, ice therapy works!  Its time we all stop complaining how “ice hurts” and “it makes me stiff”.  Sure it hurts and it requires some warmup after the 10-15 minutes of ice treatment.  But if ice therapy works, isn’t 4 minutes of discomfort (that’s how long it usually takes for the area of treatment to go numb) a mild sacrifice to feel better?

Smart athletes put pain medicine down and pick up ice to manage their pain.  Follow their lead.

As a Sports Medicine Expert for Spartan Race, I write posts for fellow Spartan racers and SGX coaches related to important sports medicine topics.  Recent posts include topics such as wrist injuries, injury prevention, rehabbing an ankle injury, injury management, and resolving low back pain.

Here’s a link to a recent post I wrote on Spartan.com to keep you “In the Game”!

Click Here For:  THE COLD TRUTH ABOUT ICE THERAPY

Keeping you healthy, happy and a helluva lot easier to live with, Mike

Knee Therapy: Sports’ Best Kept Secret

One of the most common questions that I’m asked is:  “With a sports-related injury, when do I use ice and when should I apply heat?”

ICE THERAPY the best kept secret in sports medicine, period!

All the fancy machines and cool rehab techniques may get all the hype.  But if you ask the elite athletes with a knee injury what helps them maintain their body and assist their recovery the most, they will tell you that some form of ice therapy is vital.

Personally, my best training partners when it comes to athletic injuries is ice therapy.  I often use ice to help me control soft tissue pain and supercharge my recovery.

Knee Surgery Recovery is Enhanced With Ice

Recovering from any type of knee surgery is not easy.  Unless you have the unique skill of a gymnast, you won’t be able to walk around on your hands all day.  With the painful and lengthy rehab work that needs to be done with most knee injuries, you’re creating additional swelling and pain in the joint on a daily basis.  Knee surgery recovery starts with pain control to allow you to increase your range of motion (ROM), increase your strength and to restore your function.  Ice therapy is the trick to making that happen as soon as you wake up from your surgery.

It’s not a coincidence most successful knee orthopedic surgeons apply a cold therapy device to their patient’s knees before they even leave the operating room!  What does that tell you?

Injury prevention is an important motivator for me as the founder of this website and I’m sure it is the same for you.  Ice therapy should become a part of your injury prevention plan.

There are many myths and questions in the battle of ice versus heat…so today I am going to shed some light on the truth about ice.  I’ll discuss the benefits of heat therapy in upcoming blog writings.

How to Use Ice in Knee Therapy

Three Benefits of Ice

  1. It’s a lot easier to keep a joint from swelling than it is to reduce the swelling of an inflamed injury.
  2. Icing will quickly relieve knee pain by blocking pain receptors’ feedback to the brain.
  3. Ice will significantly minimize the likelihood that the injury will swell which can actually reduce your recovery time by 50%!

How Does Your Knee Respond to Ice?

  • It decreases inflammation.
  • It moderately reduces circulation to an area which will drastically decrease the rate of tissue swelling. (In contrast, applying heat to an acute injury is like turning on a drippy faucet.  It speeds up blood flow which can quickly INCREASE tissue swelling.)
  • It slows down the metabolism of the injury site which will reduce the body’s normal inflammatory process.
  • It decreases pain.

How Should I Include Ice in my Knee Therapy?

  • Ice the injury and the surrounding tissue, not just at the site of the injury.  For example, if your injury is on the right side of your knee, ice all the way around the knee instead of just on the injured side.
  • Try to ice the knee injury while elevating the body part.
  • Ideally ice with compression.

Methods of icing:

  • Submerge in ice water – the most aggressive and effective way to ice.
  • Ice Bags
  • Ice Massage
  • Frozen Vegetables

How Long Should I Ice My Knee?

  • Ice Massage – 10 minutes
  • Ice Bath, Ice Bag/Veggies – 15 minutes

Ice Massage Made Easy:

Fill a paper cup almost to the top with water and place in the freezer.  Once frozen, peel away most of the cup and massage with the exposed ice.

Common myths about icing

  • “Ice hurts.” Toughen up!  It’s not going to kill you.  Besides, you’ll get used to it.  To minimize your pain when icing the entire leg, keep the distal extremity being iced warm.  One way to do this is to put a rubber glove or bag over the toes when submerging the body part in ice.
  • “I might get frostbite.” The likelihood of frostbite is pretty rare–especially when you are only icing for 15 minutes or less.  However, if you have a circulatory pathology like diabetes or are being medically treated for chronically swollen extremities, consult your doctor before implementing this type of ice therapy.
  • “It’s been more than 72 hours since my injury, so it’s time to switch to heat?” If the injured area feels warm, it needs ice, regardless of the time frame.  So if the injury site feels warm and inflamed, apply ice, even if it’s been more than 72 hours.

The bottom line is simple:  If you want to stay active and continue to challenge yourself as an athlete, ICE THERAPY needs be included in your knee therapy plan.  If you’re pondering the eternal question: “To use ice or heat?”  ICE is always the safe selection.