Sports medicine is an area of practice that focuses on helping athletes perform to their maximum potential, avoid injury and address any pain or other problems that result when an injury occurs. The name can be misleading, because sports medicine is not only a resource for professional athletes. Any individual who enjoys a high level of physical activity can benefit from sports medicine. Some patients come in seeking assistance in maximizing the effects of their exercise routine. Others are living with a disability and are searching for ways to improve mobility and overall quality of life. Sports medicine can help a diverse group of people and is among the fastest growing areas of medical practice.
When a muscle or group of muscles has been damaged due to traumatic injury, muscle tension or overextension, a painful condition often results. The small area of affected muscle tissue where the pain is most severe is often referred to as a “trigger point.” Trigger point areas can be quite small, but are incredibly sensitive to any level of pressure. Areas of the body most commonly impacted by trigger point muscle pain include the shoulders, back and neck. The injections used to treat trigger point pain consists of an anesthetic, which is sometimes coupled with steroid medication. By relieving the intense muscle pain in the trigger points, the practitioner is able to begin the patient on a course of physical therapy to address the underlying source of muscle pain.
One of the more exciting areas of sports medicine involves the use of electricity and/or radio waves to provide pain relief. Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure used to create heat in the neural pathway between individual facet joints and the brain. When this interventional treatment is properly applied, patients can experience a marked reduction in pain. While individual results can vary from one patient to the next, those who undergo radiofrequency ablation commonly report a cessation of pain for a period ranging from six to 12 months.