Monday, 23 January 2017

Health - Does Hydrotherapy Really Work for Exercise Recovery?

Health - Does Hydrotherapy Really Work for Exercise Recovery?

A fitness professional's take on the method and five other high-tech options.

Sports injuries for men and women
Some athletes turn to hydrotherapy, cupping, dry needling and other treatments to help ease muscle pain and accelerate injury recovery.(GETTY IMAGES)
Let's face it: For most of us, getting to the gym often enough to reap real benefits is a more pressing challenge than worrying about what might happen if we go too often. But even the most casual exercisers can learn a thing or two from their more elite counterparts, who risk serious injury if they don't adequately recover.
That's why many professional athletes – and even recreational exercisers who compete regularly – turn to some high-tech methods between events. You can too. After all, most of these therapies are readily available at chiropractic and physical therapy offices. A quick internet search should uncover some options in your area. Just keep in mind that such methods should only be used under the guidance of medical professionals or trained coaches.
If you're an athlete who's looking to push your exercise intensity, duration and frequency limits, incorporating these recovery techniques into your routine – in addition to more standard methods like simply scheduling days off – may positively affect your performance and help you avoid injury:
1. Hydrotherapy
Many athletes turn to sophisticated forms of hydrotherapy, which uses water for pain relief, under the guidance of athletic trainers or strength coaches. Ice whirlpool baths, for example, can bring perceived relief to sore muscles by reducing inflammation. The method is particularly helpful for athletes in contact sports where bruises, aches and pains become a part of everyday life.
2. Cupping
Cupping was all the rage during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with plenty of TV time devoted to the purple bruises marking the bodies of the athletes like Michael Phelps and other members of the U.S. swim team. How were the marks formed? In one of several ways. The more traditional method involves starting a small fire in a glass cup and then placing it on the injured muscle, where it forms a vacuum and creates suction. Another method uses a vacuum pump and plastic cups with valves. Cupping draws blood to a region, which stimulates healing and fights inflammation. It's also believed to effectively stretch tight muscles and associated connective tissue.
3. Low-Frequency Muscle Stimulation
Low-frequency muscle stimulation devices run the gamut from high-tech machines used by physical therapists and athletic trainers to versions you can use at home. These types of devices, which place small electrodes on the muscles to stimulate them to contract, are believed to enhance recovery by promoting improved circulation and reducing inflammation, which is often a contributing factor to post-workout pain and disability.
4. Hyperbaric Therapies
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – which involves sitting inside a highly oxygenated, pressurized chamber or room – shows promise as a means of recovering from injury. Dynamic compression garments – which usually fit around the leg, arm or hips and massage the area in a specific pattern – is an emerging option, too. Simply put, hyperbaric therapy increases the volume of oxygen in the blood, which can help the body recover after extreme levels of exercise and reduce muscle fatigue. It's long been used to treat decompression sickness for scuba divers, wounds that won't heal and persistent infection. While more research is still needed in terms of its effect on exercise recovery, it has shown promise in reducing injury healing time.
5. Low-Level Laser Therapy
Known as LLLT, low-level laser therapy is a painless, non-invasive and drug-free treatment for a variety of pain syndromes and injuries. This technique, in which infrared light is directed at the affected site, is thought to restore balance in the nervous, lymphatic and circulatory systems. LLLT stimulates cell growth and regeneration, stimulates nerve function and reduces inflammation, thereby restoring movement to an injured muscle. LLLT has been used to treat muscle bruises, contusions and even ruptures, in addition to countless other pain-management applications.
6. Dry Needling
Dry needling, which is available through physical therapist and chiropractic offices in some states, involves inserting a very small-gauge needle (without medication) into a myofascial trigger point, or a taut band of muscle, in order to treat muscle pain. Patients often twitch when the needle enters the trigger point, which can be painful to the touch and transfer pain to other parts of the body. After some period of soreness following treatment, athletes often experience a release of muscular tension and pain relief.

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