You twist your ankle during a basketball pick-up game and the next thing you do, you run to the neighborhood manghihilot for immediate treatment.
I’m sure most of us have done that at some point in our lives, regardless if you’re a professional athlete, an avid sports enthusiast or a weekend player. But the question is, does the hilot treatment really help in the healing process?
In layman’s terms, hilot treatment is soft massage and joint manipulation. Such treatments can help treat sprains, joint injuries and muscle strains, but you should know when to avail of it. Otherwise these sessions will do more harm than good.
The first thing you should do after suffering an ankle sprain or a muscle injury is to try and minimize the swelling. So what you need to do is to ice it, elevate it and immobilize it. What a manghihilot usually does is massage and prematurely mobilize the injured area – which goes against the dictum of the primary first aid for such injuries.
A lot of times, these only cause more swelling, when the idea is to bring down the swelling.
There is a time and place for hilot sessions, but it should come much later in the healing process. When a sprained ankle has become more functional after several days’ rest and the swelling has gone down, a manghihilot’s massage – so long as he or she doesn’t do anything extreme – can help improve the range of motion of the injured area.
The same goes for the age-old practice of rolling your sprained foot over a soft drink bottle or rolling pin, which by the way I’ve done myself during my playing days. Rolling pins are still very much in use in the treatment of sprains in modern sports medicine, but the sessions should come later in the rehabilitation process.
As for muscle injuries, it really depends on where the injury is. Soft tissue massage is effective in the treatment of back spasms. But if you’re treating a muscle strain, say, in the calf area, a manghihilot’s soft massage is not advisable at the early stage but much later on. So it’s a case-to-case basis.
So how about the coconut oil, garlic and various herbs which a manghihilot often applies to the injured areas at the end of the treatment?
Well, there is no scientific study that says these substances can help heal the injury. But what is known is that these substances all provide warmth which, in turn, brings relief. It’s no different from liniment, which relieves the pain and enlarges the blood vessels enough to absorb the fluid and bring down the swelling.
So if you had just suffered a sprain or a muscle strain, my advice is to stick to the universally accepted form of treatment, summed up as RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevate. That’s very basic. Rest it, ice it, compress it with elastic bandages and then elevate it. Then you might want to take some anti-inflammatory medicine.
But that doesn’t mean manghihilots, or the practical and affordable form of treatment they have practiced for generations, have become irrelevant in modern sports medicine.
I know for a fact that Korean national teams have manghihilots in their staff and even their athletic trainers are oriented to his kind of treatment. I’ve seen them trying to mobilize sprained ankles shortly after a mishap. But it’s already a science to them, much like acupuncture and other eastern medicines. It’s also just an addendum to them – not the primary form of treatment.
Even kinesio taping (those colorful therapeutic bandages that are in vogue among professional players today), I think, is an offshoot of this Japanese-Korean mentality. There’s a science to it and it works.
So with training and education, there’s hope for our neighborhood manghihilot.