With the warmer weather coming up soon, I’m sure we are all eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine! With warmer summer days comes increased activity, which often results in increased injuries and pain. When we begin doing activities that we have not done in several months, or have done very little of throughout the winter months, we may notice these activities are more painful than they were the year before.
No worries though! With some proper care, you will be able to enjoy all your favorite summer activities without having to make a trip to the doctor’s office. Here are some tips for injury prevention and pain management so you can have some summer fun.
1. Ease back into activities that you have not done recently.
Whether it’s work or at home, such as mowing the lawn or cleaning out the garage, or recreational activities like golf or riding your bike, ease back into it slowly. When you haven’t done an activity for several months, it’s going to take your body a while to get used to the movements and strains these activities require.
For instance, if you haven’t golfed in 5 months, don’t go golf 18 holes on day 1. Head out to the driving range to start or only play 9 holes. Once you are able to do that without increased pain, then you’re ready to try golfing 18 holes.
Same goes for home tasks. Don’t mow your whole lawn, then push mow the hard-to-get to areas, then use the weed-eater, and then go plant your garden. Do one thing at a time with breaks in between, or spread it out couple of days. After doing this for a few weeks, you will be able to tolerate performing tasks for longer periods of time without as much pain and soreness.
2. Ice is your friend!
After doing an activity that results in increased muscle soreness or pain, ice is a good tool to use to decrease pain. Ice helps to decrease inflammation and swelling, and interrupts the pain signals that are being transmitted to your brain, resulting in decreased pain overall. Put a cold pack or frozen peas on the painful area for 10-20 minutes at a time, and repeat 1-3 times per day as needed.
If soreness does not subside after 1 week or you have significant pain or bruising to the injured area, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or Christie Clinic physical therapist for further assessment to ensure a more serious injury has not occurred.
3. Stretch before & after activity.
Gentle stretching is another good way to prevent injury and aid in reduction of muscle soreness. Dynamic stretches (stretches with movement) before an activity are ideal as they also loosen up your joints in preparation of the activity. Static stretches (prolonged holding of a stretch) are beneficial after an activity as the muscle is warmed up at this point, more pliable, and a more effective stretch will result.
Below are some common stretches you may try before and after activity for prevention of injury and soreness.
Hip Flexor Stretch
4. Strength train your muscles.
Cardiovascular exercise is wonderful for many reasons, but cardio activities (i.e. walking, biking, running) are not strength training exercises. These activities will result in some increased muscle strength, but depending on your activity levels and the types of activities you are engaging in, strength training will be very beneficial in injury prevention.
Overall, any strengthening for your abdominal muscles, scapular muscles (mid-back between your shoulder blades), and hip muscles will be beneficial for every single person. These muscles are crucial in maintaining good posture, improving balance, and decreasing low back and neck pain. If we do not have good strength at our core (which includes our thorax and pelvic areas), then we will not have good stability throughout our extremities. Think of it like a crane: if the crane is not anchored to the ground properly, then the arm of the crane will swing all over the place because there is no stability at the base. Strength training is crucial for safe participation in activities.
5. Stay hydrated.
Our bodies are made up of approximately 70% water, so when we are dehydrated all of our systems are not functioning as well as they should be. This applies to our muscle and joint health as well. The joints throughout our body require lubrication to move properly and smoothly. When we are dehydrated, our joint motion may feel stiffer and more restricted.
The same goes for our muscles. Our muscles are made up largely of water, so when we neglect to stay hydrated we may experience increased fatigue, muscle cramping, and muscle pain. In order to properly strengthen our muscles, they must stay hydrated in order to be able to withstand the stress we are putting on them.