Team USA is dominating the medal count in the Rio Olympic Games. All athletes have different ways of preparing their bodies for extreme sports challenges and recovering after those challenges are over. Here are some therapies that some Olympians are using and a few others that you might consider trying out.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that dates back over 2,000 years used for injury relief. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. If you’ve been watching the Rio Games, you may have noticed some dark spots on some swimmers, like Michael Phelps. Those who use the practice of cupping believe the suction helps increase blood flow and promotes healing.
One treatment technique that is a little more common is the use of kinesiology tape. It’s the tape athletes, such as the sand volleyball players, wear that comes in different colors and is used on different parts of the body.
“It can be applied to facilitate muscle action, to inhibit muscle action and to help fluid movement to decrease pain,” says Karmen Woelber, Physical Therapist, UnityPoint Health. “I think it is best to have a person trained in proper application to instruct athletes how to apply it for each person’s particular needs. However, there are often basic suggestions on the box of tape and internet searches.”
Physical therapy can also get to the point of pain using a technique called dry needling. It is a therapeutic treatment that treats muscular tension and spasms. The technique uses a dry needle, one without medication or injection, which is inserted into a knotted muscle to cause a twitch response that helps release pain. The goal is to relieve pain or improve range of motion and is usually part of a larger treatment regimen.
“It helps the muscles relax and restores more appropriate blood flow and function. It is sometimes painful, but most people think the benefit outweighs the discomfort,” Woelber says.
Another option any athlete can try is massage therapy. Massage helps move soft tissues of the body. It can also help improve body conditioning and function.
Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or simply enjoying an active lifestyle, if you have an injury that doesn’t significantly improve within three to five days, or it occurs repeatedly, a trip to your UnityPoint Health primary care provider would be advised.