Avoid Soft Tissue Injury
Viscoelasticity is the name of the game for preventing soft tissue injury. This term refers to the degree of elasticity or stretch the soft tissue can handle. If muscles, tendons and ligaments are flexible and have the ability to adapt to stress, they are far less likely to tear or inflamed from overuse. We look at 3 factors that impact elasticity in tissue: mechanical stress, adhesions and hydration.
Mechanical stress on the joints is an assumed part of running and biking, however the body is designed beautifully to handle this stress if proper alignment and technique are present. Any structural imbalance that results in a change to the direction of pull on a loaded tendon will cause thickening of the surrounding connective tissue. A structural imbalance can be found in the foot or ankle, such as hind foot pronation or a fallen arch; causing the load on the Achilles to be cross fiber. A change to knee angle can trigger a mechanical tensioning of the IT Band and cause it to rub across the femoral condyle. This friction leads to inflammation and pain. Over time the tissue of the tendon itself will become stiff and less flexible.
Any prolonged stress on soft tissue will lead to the formation of a focal adhesion. A focal adhesion is where additional collagen is added to a local area to reduce the stress on the tissue around it. Even though the adhesion reduces stress on adjacent fibers, it will increase the stress on the attachment site of tendon and on the joints themselves.
At Structural Elements® we start with a standing postural assessment to identify any structural imbalances. We watch our athletes run on the treadmill to look for form issues and assure proper shoes are being used for their foot shape and running style. Our treatments are focused on returning the body to ideal alignment, through identifying and treating the formation of adhesions. We then recommend strengthening and lengthening exercises to help our athletes maintain the structural changes that we have achieved.
Connective tissue health is just as important to the success of an athlete as the development of the cardiovascular system. Proper hydration and nutrition will also affect the elasticity of tissue. If you are frequently dehydrated or lack healthy fats in the diet, it is just a matter of time before the connective tissue starts to lose its viscoelastic properties. With good structural alignment, decent form and a balanced diet, soft tissue injuries should not be an ongoing issue. If you are someone who experiences multiple sites of pain when running or biking; or have sites of pain that do not resolve with short periods of rest, it is highly likely that you have a structural imbalance and the resulting formation of focal adhesions.
Don’t let these injuries prevent you from enjoying the activities you love! We are here to help!
Douglas Bertram, L.Ac. MTCM
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