Should you push through the pain of a sports injury without understanding the problem first?

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Should you push through the pain of a sports injury without understanding the problem first? The idea of pushing through the pain of a sports injury has been taught to generations of athletes.   Is this a good idea or are you increasing the odds of having a larger problem develop because you didn't listen to your body? Can you tell the difference between training soreness and an injury? We are used to our how our body feels and functions and we consider this to be normal.  Is there a normal or is there normal bias based on the definition of normal being no pain, or feeling like you usually feel.   This idea sounds confusing but has gotten many young athletes in trouble because they pushed through pain that they may not have understood while they were training for an event or participating in a sport.   Combine this with a growth spurt and puberty which will further change their body mechanics, increasing the likelihood of an injury.   There is a further discussion of "normal" most of us can relate to in the book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain which is available through Most of us will first try self help methods to see if it "works" such as rest, Yoga, Pilates and many other disciplines.  When these do not relieve the discomfort, you may need a physician , but does the healthcare provider truly understand why you are in pain, or is the doctor trained to only evaluate and treat at the area of complaint?   This idea was discussed in a NY Times article published a few years ago called "Sports Injuries: When to Tough It Out".  The article explores the idea of when to go to a doctor for a running injury or other type of injury.  Among the opinions in the article is one by Paul D. Thompson, a marathon runner and a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital in Hartford that suggests that most doctors have no idea how running works or what causes running injuries.  He offered this advice "

“I think most folks should not go, because most general doctors don’t know a lot about running injuries,” he said, adding, “Most docs, often even the good sports docs, then will just tell you to stop running anyway, so the first thing is to stop running yourself.”

In fact, he said, because you probably will have to make a co-payment if you see a doctor, you will be adding insult — the fee — to your injury."

Nowhere is this more obvious than when you visit a pediatrician.   Pediatricians rarely refer to chiropractors and often shun them, even though they are the ones most athletes gravitate to at athletic events because they actually understand athletic injuries.  They are more likely to refer you for expensive tests, or an orthopedic where interventional approaches may be used for problems such as shoulder or back problems, when a low cost visit to a sports certified or diplomat chiropractic physician or two will actually resolve or markedly improve the condition cost effectively while helping you stay on your training schedule.

Adults who are not going through a growth spurt but who run many miles often  read magazines such as runners world and get what they believe to be helpful information on the internet.  The problem with the free advice is that since our body styles are unique to us, general advice often does not work and it is often just wrong for our particular issue.

Can you tell the difference between your knees, calves, arms or shoulders being sore from training and a potentially more serious problem?   Since it is difficult to be objective about ourselves, we often try out self help methods such as exercises, yoga, Pilates and for many of us, these one size fits all approaches may help since it can enhance the way we move and as a result, we believe that these methods work for us and help us stay healthy.   If you cannot tell the difference between training discomfort and a problem developing, it is time to see a professional.  The right professional will not only look at where you hurt, but look at you from the ground up.

Often, professional bias is built into most healthcare professionals since they will see things through their own training.  This has resulted in doctors looking at your symptoms, rather than at you holistically where we can actually figure out the mechanism behind your pain. This is common with primary care who looks at your vitals for diseases, podiatrists who only look at your feet and orthopedic doctors who look at the painful part, while ignoring you who are attached to the part that is in pain.

Who you see initially can ultimately determine the cost both monetarily as well as time and discomfort. The right professional can accurately diagnose whether the problem is where you hurt, or is a body style issue or perhaps, it is due to bad habits developed over the years that are affecting your running style or your pitching arm. Often, watching the patient perform in their sport or taking them through the motions that are involved in their sport is the only way as a provider of healthcare to fully understand the mechanism behind why you hurt. When was the last time your doctor put you on a treadmill, or had your perform your golf swing in the office to understand the mechanism of the pain you are experiencing? This type of holistic evaluation of movement is often the only way to fully resolve a problem.  Evaluating movement, while performing an active evaluation requiring you to do certain activities is often the only way to understand the mechanism behind the pain you are experiencing.  It is not unusual for the area of pain and the problem area to be in different parts of the body.  Perhaps, this is why so many MRI tests are done in the absence of credible care for a problem caused by athletic activity.

For most athletes, the right professional to see first is the chiropractic sports physician.   If the problem is more serious, they will refer you for appropriate testing or make a medical referral.  The chiropractic approach relies on improving body mechanics, and mobility using joint manipulation, muscle work and the appropriate exercises to resolve the problem.   Often, foot orthotics are used of an inherited mechanical imbalance exists to change the rules of the game for you.

A comprehensive active evaluation will show motion deficits, bad habits, problems with body mechanics and bad habits that a standard medical evaluation of the painful part will not.   The chiropractic approach to problems such as these is the improve the way you move and to reduce pain overall after normal movement patterns have been restored.   This is especially important in runners, since most injuries are due to repetitive impact forces..

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