Before you jump into your outdoor plans, or go from any period of inactivity to activity, chiropractor Dr. Alanna Tinney provides some tips to help you make the most of being active outdoors and stay injury-free.
Easing into activity to prevent injury
by Dr. Alanna Tinney
No one wants to spend nice weather stuck on the sidelines nursing an injury. But I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend—when good weather occurs, like at the beginning of summer, I see an uptick in patients coming in with strains, sprains and pulled muscles. The cause? Starting rigorous activities like golfing, jogging, gardening and other activities after a period of inactivity.
Because people jump into too much activity too fast, they end up hurting themselves. With our long winters, it’s hard not to rush outside as soon as warm weather hits to go for a run, bike with the family or engage in any other outdoor activity. The fact is, doing so may put too much strain on your body.
Keep injuries out of your outdoor plans
These tips may seem common-sense but they’re easy to forget when you’re trying to maximize your time enjoying the summer months.
- Start slow. By slowly increasing the amount and difficulty of your activity, your body is able to build strength and adapt to the new challenges it encounters.
- Change up your activity. Prevent injuries from repetitive motion by varying the types of activity you do. While it’s tempting to spend your week out on the golf course or tennis court, make sure you give the joints you’re using a break and exercise other parts of your body.
- Take time to rest. If you need an excuse to sit out on a patio, this is the one for you. Including recovery days and gentle activity is important because it allows your body time to rebuild the muscles you’re using. Ensuring you’re getting enough sleep is also very important to preventing injury.
- Stay hydrated. Working up a sweat is extra easy on a hot day, so make sure you’re regularly replacing the fluid you’re losing with water.
- Eat to fuel your body. If you’re going to be extra active, make sure you’re eating the kinds of food that can help you build muscle and sustain the activity you’re engaging in.
What to do if you are injured
Even if you do everything right, injuries can still happen. A light sprain or bump may have you considering RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) to treat your injury. Instead, try this new guide for injury recovery – POLICE.
POLICE stands for protect, optimal loading, ice, compression and elevation.
- Protect means protect your body by listening to your body. Pain is an alarm the body sounds to say something is wrong. It is important to listen to that pain; has it increased? If it’s decreased, you should pay attention to that, too.
- Optimal loading is a key difference from RICE. This term urges people to continue to use an injury through slow, progressive weight bearing. In short, bearing an optimal load for their injury. For example, if you have twisted your ankle, optimal loading may look like continuing to use your ankle but lessening the weight you are putting on it by using a cane.
- Ice, as it also represents in RICE, reminds patients to use cold (and if appropriate, hot) therapy to help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. If you decide to use an ice pack, wrap it in a thin towel and apply it to your injury for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours.
- Compression recommends applying pressure to an injury to help prevent swelling. You can do this by wrapping a bandage around an injury. The bandage should be firm but not too tight. If a limb starts to tingle, swell, feel cold or turn bluish after wrapping it, your bandage needs to be loosened.
- Elevation guides you to raise the injured body part above the level of your heart to help reduce pain and swelling. For example, if you injure your knee, consider lying on the couch with your knee resting on pillows to bring it above your chest.
The introduction of “protect” and “optimal loading” is an important change from RICE because it embraces a new model of recovery known as “active recovery.” Active recovery is the understanding that using an injury gently and carefully, shortly after the injury occurs helps maintain strength and shorten the recovery period. Active recovery is relevant to everyone, from young athletes, to weekend warriors, to grandparents trying to keep up with kids.
While rest is important, people tend to rest an injury for longer than the injury requires. The same thing that happens when you stop going to the gym for a while happens when you stop using a part of your body. You lose muscle mass and flexibility, which can in turn lengthen the amount of time it takes for you to get back up and using your body like you were before the injury.
Most important of all – listen to your pain
No matter the injury, it’s vital that you listen to your body. If your pain hasn’t subsided after a few days, consider seeking advice from a health-care professional such as a chiropractor.
Once your injury has been diagnosed and treated, you can begin the road to recovery.
Whether it’s a sprained ankle or a case of tennis elbow that brings a patient into my clinic, I evaluate and diagnose the injury. Then I work with my patient to build an appropriate treatment plan. Because each patient is unique, treatment may include chiropractic adjustments, laser therapy, stretches and/or other therapies to get them back on their feet and out enjoying the sunshine.
About the author:
Dr. Alanna Tinney practices at Back on Track Chiropractic in Spruce Grove, and Sublime Health in St. Albert. In addition to her chiropractic degree, she also holds a Master of Science in Sports Medicine. When not in the office, Dr. Tinney can be found in the hockey rink working with athletes, camping, hiking or planning her next backpacking adventure.
If it hurts, see a chiropractor.
Chiropractors are highly educated and specially trained musculoskeletal experts. Your chiropractor can treat aches and pains, as well as build customized stretching routines and whole-body wellness strategies in conjunction with your chiropractic treatment. Consult with your chiropractor or find one near you.