Sports Injuries Management - Integrating Bowen Technique and Corrective Exercise
Column #116, 9th April 2011
As The Bowen Technique continues to make successful in-roads in enhancing health and wellbeing for seemingly infinite situations, here we look at a working example of how athletes are benefiting from integrating Bowen with Corrective Exercise and Strength Coaching for Sports Injury Prevention.
The mantra “No Pain, No Gain”, so deeply engrained in athletic conditioning has had a powerful and overwhelming affect on the conditioning methods used, from sports psychology and nutrition to manual therapy and exercise. Not that it doesn’t have it’s place of course, because you wouldn’t get far as a Rugby professional who wasn’t prepared to take the ‘Big Hit’. However, the merits of teams and individual athletes who can also embrace an approach that states “Less is More”, might be on to a winner.
At the Northern Integrative Health Practice (NIHP), working with athletes and sports conditioning with integrated therapies has been a major focus and task.
A Familiar Situation for the Athlete:
It’s a new year and you are ready for a hard pre-season, you have planned your yearly schedule, you’re feeling positive, strong and motivated, everything seems to be right then wham! You get a pain in your hip, knee or ankle, you try changing your schedule but still this nagging pain continues to hamper your progress.
In frustration you go to the doctors’, where the doctor prescribes rest and anti-inflammatory drugs. After a week of rest you feel better so you start to slowly going back to your schedule. Motivation is high yet again and you are feeling positive about getting into top shape. Yet just when the training is back on track, that nagging pain starts again, so reluctantly you regress back to a lighter week, which helps to reduce the pain but does not take it away. So back to the doctor who suggests more rest, but all this resting is taking away from your athletic progress, making you feel de-motivated, sluggish and weak. You know deep down that if this keeps up you may as well write off the full year, knowing in the back of your mind that you will be a year older and a whole year behind.
Sports Injuries Perspective
This Merry-Go-Round situation is familiar to many athletes. Who really has the time and inclination to keep this injury cycle up? What can be done to prevent injuries in the future and how do we overcome injuries like this?
Trevor Rutherford and Jack Walton of the NIHP often ask their runners: Should you be getting fit to run, instead of running to get fit? In other words, are you an athlete/recreational gym goer that has good postural alignment, strength and function to do the task? Ideally the athlete should be biomechanically assessed before adding additional loads to the musculoskeletal system. In a world where gym owners really cared about their gym members, running clubs really wanted longevity with their runners and if doctors had more time for their patients then their first thoughts would include postural awareness.
Posture and Sports
Ideal posture is the position from which the musculoskeletal system functions most efficiently, so if you’re a top level athlete or an average Joe wanting to improve yourself, then it’s absolutely essential that you exercise in good biomechanical alignment. Because whenever you’re out of ideal alignment the resting and active position of your joints is faulty, which means the joint surfaces are being loaded in positions which aren’t optimal, encouraging the breakdown of the joint which encourages faulty adaptation of connective tissue which results in poor muscular length tension relationships, compensatory movement patterns, muscle imbalance and finally ending in injury. This is where the merry-go-round injury cycle starts!
Why Rest Alone won’t Work.
Now here’s the shift in the paradigm. Resting and taking time off is not going work. It is well documented in the Journal of Sports Medicine that if you’ve been injured before you are much more likely to get injured again. Here’s a great analogy; if your car wheel is out of alignment and you notice a strange noise or sound when driving it, putting it in your garage for a few weeks will stop the wear of the tyre or the strange knocking sound but it would do nothing for the underlining problem. As soon as you drive it again, within a few miles those symptoms will start again. Your body is the same, resting may take away your pain but if you have an underlining problem as soon as you start clocking up those miles, lifting weights or aerobic classes chances are according to research your aches and pains will return.
Integrating Bowen and Corrective Exercise
At the NIHP in Sacriston Durham we routinely see runners, cyclists, swimmers; badminton players and other fitness enthusiasts with postural issues on the frustrating injury merry go round. The majority of the treatments these athletes have received in the past are only treating the symptoms of pain, anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections, ultrasound etc. Useful, but not all the pieces of the puzzle.
We educate our clients that pain is merely a signal that something is wrong. Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is out of balance. Success has come from the use of the Bowen Technique combined with Corrective Exercise Coaching. As usual the key is to begin with assessment focusing on:
- Posture Analysis / Body Reading
- Functional Movement Screening
- Muscle Length-Tension
- Core Function
Now the treatment protocol can be designed to address the underlining cause of the person’s problem instead of treating the symptoms. First port-of-call will be Bowen and all Bowen Therapists will be aware of all the effects and mechanisms at work to enhance autonomic nervous system balance, soft tissue health, postural alignment and re-wiring back to the blueprint.
Muscle tissue based pain originates in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia tissue. These tissue type pains are often seen and felt by the skilled hands of a therapist as tension or knots. You may have given your partner a shoulder massage while they are watching the television and noticed neck and shoulder tension or knots. This tension causes a lack of blood flow, oxygen and a build up of waste products / toxins. When this is allowed to continue for long periods of time the result is that the body develops pain signals.
You may know from watching survival programs on television that when water is stagnant it causes disease. In the healthy body, blood, oxygen and nutrients flow freely throughout your veins and arteries, supplying all your organs, while removing waste products. Tension and imbalance restricts blood flow, oxygen and nutrients, resulting in a build up of waste products, injury and pain.
“At the Northern Integrative Health Practice we have been getting great success with the use of the Bowen technique combined with Corrective Exercise. Once an assessment has evaluated postural faults a treatment protocol can be designed to address the underlining cause of the person’s problem instead of treating the symptoms.”
Following several Bowen Sessions the body will be closer to its ‘blueprint’. For example the sports injury inflammation may be reduced, the tight muscles are be relaxed, the stress levels have normalized, movement patterns are corrected, postural alignment is improved. Now we have the opportunity to strengthen all of these factors. At the NIHP the idea is now to consolidate this blueprint by implementing Corrective Exercise principles. We complement the bodywork with programs that further enhance factors such as:
- Postural alignment
- Breathing Patterns
- Autonomic Nervous System Balancing Exercises
- Integrated Flexibility
- Movement development
- Correcting compensation patterns
- Core firing patterns
- Structural Balance for Strength
- Sport Specific Conditioning
True to the principles of Bowen, this functional approach appreciates that the body is an integrated system of systems and is individual-specific. It is a far cry from following the latest one-size-fits-all workout in a magazine, pounding the treadmill or the slaving through the same, mind-numbing resistance machine circuit. Real movement for real people.