I’m seven weeks into my collegiate track season. Five weeks ago I pulled my quad and have been rehabbing it since. The athletic trainers at school said it would be several weeks until I was back to 100%; they weren’t lying.
I have been diligent with various rehab protocols and have definitely seen progress, but it’s still frustrating to run and know that I’m protecting my quad. When it first happened, I wasn’t just frustrated. I was pissed. That frustration put me in a negative mindset, a mindset I don’t normally have. I had put so much planning and organization into making this track season a reality and for what, to NOT run and complete? Ultimately, I knew that negativity would not help the healing process. I flipped my thinking and got my mind in a positive place, a place that would promote healing. I decided to carve out time in my crazy daily schedule, to do the necessary rehab work to get better.
So here’s what I’ve been doing. Please note that there are certain health conditions in which these modalities are not advised. Please consult your physician before beginning any new treatments.
Cryotherapy and Cold Water Immersion
These two cold treatments are known for reducing inflammation, decreasing pain (acute and chronic) and increasing circulation. The main difference between the two is that cryotherapy is in a dry chamber cooled by liquid nitrogen. Without humidity your body is able to handle much colder conditions (-150 degrees and lower), which may speed up the healing process.
I spent three minutes in the cryo chamber at Chilltonic in Hillcrest. They provided me with specific shoes, socks and gloves and I wore underwear and a sports bra. They took my skin temperature prior to going in and it was 87 degrees. Ideally, they want your skin temperature to drop 30 degrees or more.
When in the chamber, vasoconstriction occurs and blood pools to your torso to protect your organs. This exposes injury sites, adhesions, and other areas of trauma in fascia and connective tissue. Once you step out of the chamber, vasodilation occurs and nutrient rich, oxygenated blood floods back through the body and nourishes the joints and tissues. Upon exiting the chamber, my skin temp had dropped to 40 degrees F.
What I like about cryo is the quickness; you’re in and out in 10 minutes. Because it’s dry, you get warm pretty quick. There no shivering and shaking. I’ve done cryo before and after every session I get a boost of energy and a little more mental clarity.
At school we have a cold water immersion tub. The water is around 45 degrees and there’s a jet that is adjusted to pump on the injured site. Similar to the cryo chamber, the cold water causes constriction of the blood vessels, helps flushing of waste products, and will reduce inflammation and tissue breakdown. It also reduce the perception of pain.
I spent 12 minutes in the tub. I plan on doing it again on Friday, the day before our next meet.
I definitely experienced less muscles soreness with these therapies, but not sure how much they benefited the injured quad. Both of these strategies are known as “recovery” methods and may be more beneficial as a preventive measure as well as a way to improve performance.
When you have an injury, scar tissue builds up around the site and limits your range of motion. In the Graston Technique, the edges and angles of a hand-held metal tool help break up lesions in and around the muscle and fascia, which increase range of motion and decrease pain. This in and of itself, is quite painful, but I actually really like it. For my injury, it’s pretty easy to feel the areas of the quad in which the muscle tissue is damaged… it feels bumpy. Scraping the lesions helps bring blood flow into the area and promotes mobility.
While cupping is becoming more common here in the U.S., it has been used in Asia for thousands of years. Cupping is the inverse of massage. Instead of pressing down on the muscle tissue, cups are placed on the injured site, create friction with the skin and pull the muscle tissue up. The cups are left on the skin for approximately 10 minutes.
According to the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine
“cupping therapy tends to drain excess fluids and toxins, loosen adhesions and revitalize connective tissue, increase blood flow to skin and muscles, stimulate the peripheral nervous system, reduce pain, controls high blood pressure and modulates the immune system. Some researchers believe that the build-up of toxins is the main reason for illness development. In the cupped region blood vessels are dilated by the action of certain vasodilators such as adenosine, noradrenaline and histamine. Consequently, there is an increase in the circulation of blood to the ill area. This allows the immediate elimination of trapped toxins in the tissues, and, hence, the patient feels better.”
My chiropractor, Dr. Ryan Silbernick, at Your Healthy Spine and the Southwestern College trainers have used cupping and Graston on my quad, but I’ve also been cupped when I’ve had a cold. Applying the concept of removing stagnation in the blood also applies when your fighting bacteria buildup in your body. It’s my go-to as soon as I start to feel a cold coming on.
Dr. Ryan and the owner of Your Healthy Spine, Dr. Travis Johnson blend several treatment therapies into my sessions. Over the course of an hour, Ryan will do a deep tissue massage to warm up the site, apply electrical stimulation to the area while it’s warm, cup the area and end with a full body adjustment. He also provides a routine of exercises to strengthen the area and improve mobility. I’ve been going to them for a few years and would recommend they to anyone in acute or chronic pain.
I’ve been doing acupuncture for the last 7 years with Oscar Talamates, owner of the Hillcrest Community Acupuncture Clinic. This approach to healing also stems from ancient Chinese medicine but is widely recognized here in the U.S. When needles are placed on specific points on the surface of the skin, receptors at those sites transmit signals to the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. These regions of the brain release neurotransmitters and endorphins that help manage pain and promote homeostasis in the body. Notice that the points that correlate to the quad are actually on the opposite arm.
I see Oscar both in the community clinic and at his private practice. I can’t say enough positive things about his kind spirit and expertise in this field. If you work with him in his private practice, he also does massage, cupping and other treatments that would be specific to your needs.
Our Athletic Trainers at Southwestern College, Dennis Petrucci and Stacy Struble are top-notch. They manage multiple sports at one time and deliver every type of treatment imaginable. When it comes down to strengthening the muscle, they put me through some pretty rigorous movement patterns. They push and resist my leg as I drive it through various ranges of motion. We go till muscle failure and man, is it exhausting. I’m in the training room every day for therapy, strengthening exercises, or just ice. A major THANK YOU to both of them and their interns for all their hard work.
Stay tuned next week for results from Cal State LA!