Sports Medicine is a branch of medicine that uses exercise and sports to treat medical problems and diseases of the body and mind. Conditions that can be treated and managed in sports medicine include osteoarthritis, back pain, joint and muscle problems; mental and stress issues such as anxiety, hypertension and depression; and metabolic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.
Not just for athletes
Contrary to popular belief, sports medicine is not just used to treat athletes; it is for everyone. Besides the obvious benefits of exercise such as increased strength, a healthier heart and better blood circulation, it also helps to protect the brain, improve social functioning and promote better mood and well-being. It is critical in the motor and coordination development in children and essential in preventing the deterioration of health in the elderly.
Our bodies are made to move. Most degenerative diseases have been found to be accelerated without movement and exercise. Movement provides the mechanical stimulus that helps keep a whole host of physiological processes in our body working in their optimal condition.
When is it necessary?
Patients seek treatment by a sports physician for a variety of reasons, including muscle and joint problems, performance improvement and recovery strategies. Beyond the musculoskeletal treatment and rehabilitation, Treatments may include working through cardiac rehabilitation programmes with a cardiologist, osteoporosis and weight management programmes with an endocrinologist and, for the elderly, fall prevention and frailty programmes with a geriatrician. Many of these conditions require prescriptive exercise and diet and lifestyle management. Eating better, strengthening the body and moving better are all keystones in the recovery process of such conditions. Sports medicine can also be used as a preventive treatment. Healthy people can consult a sports doctor to optimise their fitness levels so that they are better able to stave off injury and disease, and are likely to recover faster and have fewer complications if they do fall sick or get injured.
Finding a balance
Balance is key to leading a healthy life. Too much of anything, even water, can be damaging. There is always a sweet spot in biological systems where things work the best. Too little leads to deficiencies and too much usually leads to toxicities. Overdoing exercise is a recipe for injury. You should exercise at your current level of fitness and progress gradually. If you are not strong enough or your muscles are not balanced enough to do a movement, you are very likely to overload your joints and strain and injure yourself. But if you progress gradually and train properly, the likelihood of sustaining an injury is much lower.
There is no one exercise that is all good or all bad. It simply depends on your ability to perform it. What will be a safe and appropriate exercise for one person may be detrimental to another. For example, an athlete who has trained over many months to run a marathon will be able to complete a race with relative ease while someone who has not exercised for years would find it hard to manage 5 kilometres or will push themselves too hard and sustain inevitable injuries. This is why it is important to stick to an exercise regimen that your doctor, physiotherapist or trainer has recommended and progress slowly and with increased intensity over time.
Recovery is another area of training that is often misunderstood. It is not just about resting and sleeping but involves returning the body to its pre-exercise state. This involves recovering not just the muscles and elastic system, but also the hormonal, cardiovascular, immune, metabolic and nervous systems as well as the mental state. To recover well from exercise, both active and passive rest is important. Some of the basic recovery modalities include sleep, hydration, nutrition and stretching and doing them properly, but there are many more. Your sports doctor will also guide you on how to do them effectively individually and in combination.
Sports medicine is about restoring and maintaining function. It is about the right treatments at the right time, and about specificity, appropriateness and timeliness. It centres around using exercise and sports as a treatment and preventive measure. Ultimately, it is about prescribing and titrating the appropriate quantity of diet, exercise, activity, sleep, rest and healthy levels of stress to get you performing and functioning at your optimal state.
Whether you are an athlete or someone with back and joint muscular pain, sports medicine can help make a difference. Make an appointment with our sports doctor today!
Article contributed by Dr Ethan Lim, sports medicine doctor at Parkway Shenton, One Raffles Quay