New Year, New You Staying injury free in the New Year
Here we are again at the start of a new year with resolutions to eat better, start a workout program or to improve on what we already have. Whichever your resolution, it is important to avoid injury so that these goals and aspirations are not hindered for 2011. As a physical therapist, I come across patients who endure injury specifically from working out. Albeit on their own or even at a public fitness center the main culprit is usually related to exercise technique or lack of proper conditioning. A few of the exercise induced injuries that present in the outpatient clinic where I practice include Shoulder Tendonitis, Low back pain, Tennis Elbow and Knee sprains to name a few. This past summer for example, one of my patients tore a cartilage in her knee requiring surgery after completing a Yoga DVD at home. So how do you, an active individual either starting a fitness program or increasing the intensity of your current program avoid injury and subsequent visits to a medical professional?
Whether you are a weightlifter or a runner, you must warm up your body before “going hard” in the gym. Complete a set of repetitions of light weight or complete light cardiovascular exercise which will increase circulation to your joints and muscle tissue as well prepare your heart for the activity.
Watch your posture.
Many of you I am sure have seen those in the gym with forward, rounded shoulders; their head and neck posture is protruded forward and their back looks wide and spread apart. This posture actually exemplifies a weak, over stretched back and neck with tightness of the pectorals (chest) and biceps muscles. This posture can predispose someone to shoulder and back problems. To avoid further injury or feeling pain all the time, more emphasis needs to be placed on back extension, shoulder retraction and chest expansion type exercises. For example instead of completing heavy bench press, followed by chest press and lat pull downs, try adding chest flies with dumbbells, posterior deltoid flies and stability ball back extensions. Don’t know what these exercises are, you can always implement the advice and expertise of a personal trainer who can tailor a fitness regime according to your goals while teaching proper exercise technique to avoid injury.
Stretch Now that you have worked out, make sure your reward your hard work with a good 10 minute stretching routine involving the entire body. Slow, prolonged stretches work best. Hold each at least 30 sec – 1 minute. Yoga and Pilates emphasis these postures as well as making you in tune with your breathing system.
Lastly if you do find yourself nursing an injury or pain that lasts more than 1 week after a workout possibly consisting of redness, swelling or weakness, remember RICE: Rest Ice Compression and Elevation. (Don’t wrap the injured joint too tightly which will cut off circulation as at least 2 fingers should fit underneath)
Happy New year and congratulations on your commitment to fitness.