Top 5 Reasons To Use Cold Therapy

How do you know if you should be using cold therapy?

For the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on Cold Therapy…we’ll get to hot therapy in a future article.
The first thing I would always recommend is that you check with your physician to be sure you’re using the proper therapy for your condition. Using the inappropriate hot versus cold therapy can actually cause even further tissue damage.

Let me start with some basic reasons why you may want to use cold therapy and then I’ll briefly go into some of the reasons why ice therapy can be helpful.

Top 5 Reasons for Cold Therapy

  1. Pain Relief
  2. Reduction of Swelling
  3. Reduction of Blood Loss
  4. Reduction of Muscle Spasms
  5. Reduction of Cell Death

Pain relief is probably the most common use of Ice Therapy. There are several different theories as to why cold therapy is so effective for relieving pain. Like blood flow, cold seems to also slow down the electrical impulses going to your brain telling you you’re in pain. It also seems to raise the body’s threshold to tolerate pain possibly by the release of extra endorphins (the body’s natural pain reliever).

The reduction in swelling and blood loss is pretty much controlled by the same process. Cold causes the blood vessels to contract (narrow). Since excessive blood flow to the injured area causes swelling, just like a cut or a bloody nose, narrowing of the blood vessels themselves will reduce the amount of blood getting to the area of concern, thus a reduction in swelling and or bleeding.

When talking about muscle spasms, generally you think of heat, however cold can also be very effective in reducing spasms! In a number of cases, pain is actually the cause of a muscle spasm so by reducing the pain, you also reduce the muscle spasm.

As for the cell death, when you have an acute injury, cold therapy can reduce the rate of cell death by reducing the need for oxygen to the affected area by slowing down the metabolic rate.

Obviously, this is a very brief explanation and does not encompass all of the factors involved, hopefully it’s given you a little better understanding of what cold therapy can be used for and why it can be helpful.

Top 5 Reasons To Use Heat Therapy

How do you know if you should use heat therapy?

The first thing I would always recommend is that you check with your physician to be sure you’re using the proper therapy for your condition. Using the inappropriate hot versus cold therapy can actually cause even further tissue damage.

As promised in the Top 5 Reasons to Use Cold Therapy…I wanted to be sure to give you the counterpart to cold therapy…heat therapy!
Let me start with some basic reason why you may want to use heat therapy and then I’ll go briefly into some of the reasons why heat therapy can be helpful.

Top 5 Reasons for Heat Therapy

1. Pain Relief (not a new injury with swelling!)

2. Increase in muscle flexibility

3. Increase in blood flow

4. Reduction of Muscle Spasms

5. Faster healing

Pain relief is probably the most common use of Heat Therapy. You do need to use caution here…an acute injury (an injury occurring less the 14 days ago with possible swelling) should not be treated with heat generally. Of course there are acceptations like when alternating cold followed by heat after a surgery, etc). However, when an injury is considered chronic (long term) such as rheumatoid arthritis or stiff muscles, heat can be very beneficial. It is suggested that heat can block the pain transmitters in the body as well.

Heat can also increase the flexibility in your muscles by causing them to relax and decrease stiffness. The same principal also applies to muscle spasms in that the muscle relaxation heat provides can relax those tightening muscles.

Increasing blood flow and faster healing are inter-related. Heat causes the blood vessels to relax, therefore blood flow increases. This intern allows more nutrients, proteins and oxygen to reach the injured area giving the chronically injured area more of what it needs to promote healing.

Just as in the Top 5 Reasons to Use Cold Therapy, this is a very brief explanation and does not encompass all of the factors involved. Again, when in doubt, please seek medical advice from a licensed physician.

Patella Tendinopathy and Injuries

The basic function of the patella tendon is to transfer force of the quadriceps muscles; which causes the extension of the knee. The quadricepses are the muscles that are most active during the running and kicking of the ball in football.

Patella Tendinopathy is degeneration of the tendon (tendonsis). A breakdown of the tendon is characterized by focal lesions which are small and do not have an inflammatory response. Degeneration is when the tendon isn’t processing its normal tensile strength and could rupture if you continue with sporting activities. Patella Tendinopathy is also associated with aging. Some contributing factors are; joint stiffness, muscle tightness, muscle weakness, poor pelvic stability, inappropriate or excessive training, inadequate warm up and inappropriate footwear.

Some of the signs and symptoms of patella Tendinopathy are coming on gradually: pain in the tendon, worsened by activity, focal areas are tender, tendon is very stiff first thing in the morning, and the tendon may appear thickened in comparison to an unaffected area, the pain will be in the front of the knee, just below the kneecap. It commonly occurs from too much activity, repetitive or prolonged strain on the tendon. For less severe cases, you may only notice an ache or stiffness in your knee that worsens with rest following any activity that requires strong or repetitive contractions of the quadriceps muscles. Some of these activities include hopping, squatting, jumping, kicking, or climbing stairs.

The treatment for Patella Tendinopathy varies from case to case but includes ice for analgesia (do not put directly on the skin), rest from any sporting activities for at least three months, eccentric muscle work; referring to a muscle which is lengthening while contracting. In persistent cases, they will recommend an injection of Aprotinin. If the condition has not gotten better within a six-month period, your doctor may discuss surgery with you. Use surgery only as a last resort because even that is not going to be 100% effective. Treatment may comprise of soft tissue massage, ultrasound, stretches, use of crutches, joint mobilization, exercises, and education. Rehabilitation will be necessary after surgery and may take many months to accomplish.

There are rules to prevent Patella Tendinopathy so follow these: the intensity, frequency, and duration of training have to be carefully monitored with only gradual progression. Any sudden increases should be avoided. Flexibility and muscle strength has to be maintained with regular strengthening sessions. You have to wear the correct footwear and make sure that the surface is appropriate with the sport you are practicing.

If you begin having aches and pains in the knee area as described above, please make sure you visit your doctor and have some testing done. The sooner you are diagnosed and start treatment or rehabilitation the quicker you will be able to heal and resume normal activity.

Achilles tendon and Footwear

Achilles tendon is a tendon in the back of the leg, also known as calcaneal tendon or tendo calcaneus. The tendon is located in the area of the ankle, behind it. This tendon is the thickest and certainly the strongest tendon in your body. It measures approximately five point nine (5.9) inches long, beginning near the middle of your calf. The most common Achilles tendon injuries are an Achilles tendon rupture or Achilles tendonitis; inflammation of the tendon.
Believe it or not, the best way to avoid an Achilles tendon injury is to have the correct footwear. Footwear and the Achilles tendon are actually related in the following three ways: you have to correctly fit footwear that can prevent injuries, can help you recover from injuries and can help prevent injuries from coming back. If you have the wrong footwear, unfortunately, it can be a factor in having Achilles tendon issues and injury. They can also delay your recovery and it will increase the chance of reoccurrence.
When buying footwear you must match it to the person’s individual requirements. This includes the firmness, cushioning, height, heel height, and correct arch. If you end up with an injury to Achilles tendon, it likely means that you need to change your footwear.
Some people can get away with inexpensive and tiny fixes to their footwear; using arch support inserts or placing a piece of material under his heel to add cushioning. Other people can receive help by just wearing better shoes and/or sports shoes. There are people who have unique feet structure and they require custom-built shoe inserts also known as orthotics. Orthotics and specialized shoes could be very costly so if you have to, triple check that that is what you need so you are not overspending.
For a handful of unfortunate people, a brace might be required. The brace will be able to immobilize your foot after an Achilles tendon injury; one example can be the rupture of Achilles tendon. Braces that are to be used can be wrap devices that can provide a small amount of support helping in the immobilizing devices that are used to block flexing or prevent pointing of and then to further damage of the Achilles tendon.
Here are a couple of the guidelines to follow when finding sports shoes or regular everyday shoes to help prevent an Achilles tendon injury:
1. Heel cushioning and height: please make sure it is not too little but also not too much as either situation is doing any good for any tendon. You should have a slight cushion or elevation in the heel.
2. Not too little: you don’t want cushioning which is so soft that your heel will sink lower at the heel than the front part of the foot; it overly strains the tendon.
3. Flexible sole at the forefoot: the midsoles should be firm, but also be able to bend comfortably at each stride.
If you have Achilles tendon injuries, please consult your doctor and get it taken care of! If you don’t have one and wish to prevent one from happening, follow the guidelines above and get the proper shoes and don’t overdue the exercise and sports.

How Cell Phones Can Affect Your Fingers

Cell phones are an indispensible tool in today’s society. A lot of us feel naked without our phones in plain sight. However, there are some health concerns associated with these tiny pieces of technology that you might not think of.

We have all heard things about the way our phones affect our bodies. However, there is a casualty of everyday cell phone use that we tend to overlook – our fingers. We can spend hours with a phone in our grasp, whether we are talking or texting, and not think twice about what it is doing to our hands. Some of the most common conditions caused by too much cell phone use are trigger finger and “text thumbs.”

The Mayo Clinic defines trigger finger as “a condition in which one of your fingers or thumb catches in a bent position. Your finger or thumb may straighten with a snap – like a trigger being pulled and released.” This sometimes-painful condition is caused by overuse and overdevelopment of the flexor tendons, or the tendons used to curl our fingers. Holding your cell phone all day can cause this. The tendons then develop scar tissue that builds up and catches on the tendon sheath, making it difficult to straighten out the affected fingers. Symptoms often begin with a swelling sensation and a popping or snapping when you bend and relax your fingers. More acute cases can cause the fingers to lock so firmly that you have to use your opposite hand to straighten them. These cases are usually accompanied by pain that makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks. When left untreated, this condition can cause permanent damage to the tendons and tendon sheaths. It is important to see a doctor if you begin having these symptoms. Typically, treatment begins with rest and discontinuation of the activity that caused the symptoms in the first place. Stretches are usually enough to cure most cases, but sometimes surgery can be necessary for extreme situations.

Another common injury associated with cell phones is called texting tenosynovitis, or “text thumb”. As the name implies, this is associated with texting for extended periods of time. Texting causes to use our thumbs in an unnatural way; they were meant to help us grip and grasp things, not type. Considering that some people can type up to 40 words per minute on their Blackberry, this puts our thumbs at risk for injury. Text thumb is really a technologically enhanced case of repetitive strain injury. The nerves get irritated and inflamed, and the thumbs begin to hurt. Some dedicated texters can even develop de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which causes pain along the side of the wrist at the base of the thumb. Treatment for this condition is similar to that of any overuse condition – rest, ice packs, anti-inflammatories, and in some severe cases, cortisone injections.

The best treatment for both of these conditions, however, is to prevent them in the first place. Try to make sure and stretch your hands throughout the day. Don’t always use the same hand to hold your phone – switch between the two throughout the day. If you are texting and your thumbs begin to get sore, stop texting and call instead. And don’t fall for the various thumb splints on the market that claim to alleviate texting thumb, because they often make the problem worse. While we may not be able to use our phones less, we can lessen the impact our phones have on our fingers.