Many people find that chiropractic care helps them to avoid injury – that’s one of the reasons why chiropractic is popular with athletes such as Usain Bolt and Roger Federer. There are also some behaviors which you should be wary of if you want to avoid injury.
1. Reaching and twisting
If you are going to lift something heavy, you will probably set yourself up to do it by engaging your muscles and making your body stable. But when you’re bending over to pick something up or reach for something, the body itself is quite heavy. By being aware and bracing yourself when reaching and twisting you can reduce the likelihood of injury from seemingly inconsequential actions. For example-
- Retrieving things from inside the car, like something which has slipped under a seat or a heavy bag which is deep inside the boot.
- Getting hoovers out of cupboards.
- Picking up a crawling baby, especially if it is crawling away from you.
Remember that if you are lifting something, the closer it is to your core the better. Position yourself straight on to pull something towards you, and then lift it once you’ve got it close.
2. Beware mornings.
A friend recently injured himself by rolling straight out of bed and going downstairs to the hotel gym. There are two issues here-
- Always warm up, particularly if you have been sitting for a long time
- Your discs are at their most vulnerable for the first hour of the day. Doing exercises first thing which put a strain on them such as dead lifts or squats is a really bad idea.
3. Small repetitive movements which the body isn’t used to.
This one catches many people unawares. Recently a long-standing patient came in with a new injury. She had been doing a job which required her to go up and down a step repeatedly for several hours, and each time she used the same leg. Normally going up and down a step would be no problem for her because she’s fit and well, but doing it over and over again meant that her muscles and tendons didn’t have chance to recover and became inflamed.
Repetitive activities which I frequently see causing problems for people who aren’t used to them include-
- Painting walls
- Seasonal gardening jobs like digging or raking leaves
- Playing games for lengthy periods on tablets and phones.
4. Prolonged sitting
Sitting puts a lot of pressure on the lower back. After sitting for a while the discs in the spine start to accumulate microtrauma. The good news is that getting up and moving around, even for a few seconds, resets the clock. Research shows that the magic number is 20 minutes, so try not to sit for longer than that.
When people have an injury which blows up out of nowhere, it has usually been ‘in the post.’ The body has been working around problems, compensating, until it can’t any longer and a little thing like picking a pencil off the floor causes a sudden blow out. Modern lifestyle is often to blame..
5. Being deconditioned.
You need muscles which are strong enough to support movements of your body, even for simple things like bending over. Modern lifestyle often means that people are deconditioned. We sit all day in cars/ at a desk/ watching TV and our muscles have adapted to this way of life (see my other article called Bad Posture: It’s not your fault.) The best thing you can do to counteract this is exercise such as resistance training like weight lifting or core stability work.
This is particularly important for women (it protects against osteoporosis) and for those who are hypermobile (or ‘double jointed’.)
However, it is all very well knowing that you need to get a strong body. How do you get one without injuring yourself? That brings me to the potential perils of exercising..
6. Doing something you used to be good at.
If you have not been consistently doing a hobby, you will probably have lost the strength, flexibility and coordination required to do it well but may still have the skill set. People expect to be able to pick up where they left off with a favourite sport, but you need to build up slowly.
7. Too much too soon
Whether you have chosen a new sport or a favourite hobby from your past, remember this. Your cardiovascular capacity and the strength of your muscles will increase faster than the strength of your tendons and bones. This means you may feel like you can do more than is actually safe. This is how people pick up stress fractures and tendonitis problems, so follow a structured programme and don’t take short cuts.
The ten percent rule is a good way to make forward progress without going over the top and injuring yourself. Take one factor (such as distance/ the amount of weight/ the number of repetitions/ exercise intensity) and increase it by ten percent per week.
8. Exercising with poor form.
This is particularly important if you are joining a gym. If you are not used to exercise, have a few sessions with a good personal trainer. There is lots of good information online, and whilst that can be very useful, it’s no substitute for someone with expertise watching you and giving you feedback.
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