Sports injuries can happen to just about anyone, whether you’re active in sports or simply exercising. It can be caused due to many reasons that range from improper gear to simple accidents. As with all injuries, there are some that are more common than others and while sportsmen are more prone to sports injuries, that doesn’t mean that non-sports junkies aren’t vulnerable too.
Sprains, for example, are injuries that can happen at any given time – such as when you take a tumble or if you simply have weak ankles, also known as Chronic Ankle Instability, which I happen to have. I’ve torn a tendon due to this while wearing flats simply because my ankle decided to give way three times within a 10-second timeframe while I was walking across a road.
While there are numerous ways of treating various kinds of sports injuries, osteopathy is a popular option because not only can it help with swifter rehabilitation, it can also help improve performance and joint mobility. The experts are the ones to ask, however, and so I recently talked to professional osteopath Nikolas Grimaldi to get his thoughts on osteopathy, sports injuries and the various treatments available.
On osteopaths and the nervous system...
Osteopathy is a type of manual therapy that can treat a wide range of ailments besides sports injuries, including those related to the back, shoulder, neck, pregnancy, digestive, gynaecological, scoliosis and more. It can also help babies with stiff neck, flat head, colic, vomiting, suction troubles, etc. At ONE OSTEO, we are also specialised in the treatment and management of immune system troubles such as asthma, eczema, psoriasis, allergies, unexplained cough, and the tendency to fall sick.
A lot of the problems we have are caused by mechanical disorders. What does this mean? The body can be compared to a (biological) machine. All its functions are based on movement (joints, circulation or fluids, movement of organs) which defines life. Each element of this structure (bones, organs, membranes, vessels) must be perfectly balanced to help them work and interact well with the other structures to ensure proper body health.
It is like a Swiss watch; even if the smallest element is not working properly, it might affect part of or even the whole system. If the body is not interconnected as one unit, it will cause imbalances or dysfunctions that will affect the nervous system and its ability to communicate between the different structures.
The osteopath will diagnose these mechanical dysfunctions by manual tests as the texture of the tissues will change on the disrupted areas. The osteopath will only use his hands and a wide range of manual techniques to rebalance the whole system and ensure the best communication within the nervous system is achieved.
On the difference between osteopaths and chiropractors...
The aim of the two types of therapy is the same: re-establish the best function of the nervous system. To understand the difference, we need to remember that historically, osteopathy and chiropractic were linked as the founder of osteopathy and the founder of chiropractic used to work together. But Palmer (Chiro) didn't agree with the global and holistic approach of Still (Osteo).
The approach is radically different: for chiropractors, access to the nervous system is achieved through the spine due to its importance as a relay between the brain and the rest of the body. But we are not just a walking spine despite the fact that the work done on the vertebrae is important. What if you sprain your ankle, which will become unstable and out of balance?
Step by step, the body will adapt and potentially create blockages elsewhere. The knee might be painful after a while, then the lower back. Maybe in five years of adaptation, you will start to develop headaches, thinking that it's your desk job that is the cause. The chiropractor will work on your spine. The osteopath’s work will finally lead him to your ankle that was sprained five years ago.
On average, a condition is treated within two to three sessions and we don't use machines. If we have no results after two to three sessions, we re-evaluate the patient to understand why our treatment isn’t providing results. Chiropractors do many more sessions (10 or more) and use machines. We believe that the fine touch and ability of the hand to sense the tensions of the body can never be replaced by a machine. It is all about senses and communication with the body of a particular patient.
It is important to remember that the body is a machine, so the better the balance of this machine is, the faster and better the recovery will be. The fact that it is a biological machine has a big importance. The ‘biological’ level means that the machine has the ability to self-repair as long as the recovery system is strong and unaffected.
This is the other level of work in osteopathy: we will use techniques that will enhance the potential of this recovery system. We don't really cure or treat patients, in fact; we are just helpers. We provide a solution for the body to continue to adapt in the best conditions, which means we open a door that the body was unable to unlock to allow it to repair itself the best way possible.
If you have a sport injury, it is important to ensure that your ‘machine’ is perfectly ‘aligned’ before rehabilitating or using it. It makes no sense to try using your bike if the wheel is twisted. First you repair the wheel (osteopathy), then you test your bike (physiotherapy), then only do you use it (health). The same applies for surgery: after a fracture, for example, it is important to ensure that the structures are properly stable (not the fracture itself) to operate on a body that has its best balance.
And then, you work on the body after surgery to enhance its ability to repair. Most international football teams in Europe understand the benefit of osteopathy and have included osteopaths in their team. It is a great complement as the osteopath will solve all the mechanical issues that might affect the recovery of an athlete.
Let’s say I was playing basketball and sprained my ankle pretty badly. What should my immediate next steps be? Who do I consult first when I’ve had an injury? It really depends on the injury, but from a patient's perspective: get medical advice first, then ask your osteopath if there is something he can help with.
But if you have your osteopath in your pocket, he would have good immediate techniques to stop the inflammation (inhibition of the ligaments of the ankle – if there is no tear or bone fracture of the malleoli, press deeply with your thumb, following the bone all around the malleoli). It is really painful, but very efficient.
On avoiding and preventing sports injuries...
This is a complex question: Can we avoid sport injuries? If it’s due to improper movement, training or global management, yes. If it’s due to accidents? No. Many sports have their own types of injuries due to the fact that they involve repetitive movements. Overall, two elements are essential: the machine and how well it works, as well as what you put inside the machine.