Have you ever had to stop a sport or workout due to pain from an stubborn injury? Maybe you had to cut your golf game short due to low back pain or retire in the third set of your tennis match due to tennis elbow or a sore shoulder. Or possibly you were in the gym or out for a run, pulled a muscle, and had to stop. Whether sidelined with pain or competing at the top of your game, following these five tips will help you be happier and healthier.
Just like your car’s engine, your body needs to be warmed up before exercise. A good warm-up decreases the chance of pulled muscles and tendon or ligament injuries by increasing the elasticity of your muscles and the range of motion of your joints. As your body warms up, the temperature of your muscles increase, resulting in stronger contraction and quicker relaxation of the muscles. Stronger muscle contractions and quicker relaxation can add extra yardage to a golf swing, shave minutes off a run, or add extra spin or miles per hour to your tennis serve. For athletes with a history of cardiovascular disease, a proper warm-up dilates your blood vessels, reducing stress on your heart.
2. Dynamic Stretching Before Exercise – Static Stretching Afterwards
Static stretches are when you stretch your muscle to a point of tension and hold, which is good to do after exercise, but detrimental before exercise. Recent research shows that static stretching actually increases the risk of injury during exercise and decreases muscle strength by up to 9%! Turns out that all the stretching we learned in grade school was wrong!
Dynamic stretching is stretching through movement. When dynamic stretching is performed before exercise, it aids in performance and decreases the chance of sports injuries. Dynamic stretching involves exaggerated range of motion exercises done in a controlled manner and reduces the risk of injury by keeping muscles loose and joints lubricated. Examples include arms swings, half squats, hip circles, high knees, butt kicks and walking lunges.
3. Apply Ice
Many athletes hop into a hot tub or take a hot shower after rigorous exercise because it “feels good.” Unfortunately, muscles injured during exercise are inflamed and irritated by the increased blood flow from heat. Always apply ice after a strenuous workout or injury.
4. Keep Joints Moving
Movement is the key to health. When a joint stops moving properly due to a misalignment, it affects your health. This applies to every joint of the body and, more importantly, the spine. With 76 joints in the human spine and pelvis, if the vertebrae are misaligned, it causes joint dysfunction, affecting the nerves which are attached to your spinal cord. Nerves supply the “messages” to every organ, tissue, and bone in your body. Without bone movement in your feet, legs, pelvis, spine, shoulders and arms, the nerve “messages” are disturbed, possibly resulting in early arthritis or injury. A chiropractic evaluation can quickly determine if misalignments are secretly affecting your health.
5. Support Your Feet
Your feet are the foundation of your body. A foot that is not functioning properly or has a dropped arch can cause plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee pain, hip pain and low back pain. Supporting your feet with flexible, custom orthotics, such as Amfit Orthotics is crucial if you are an athlete.
Of course, these 5 tips should be used in combination with established guidelines such as staying hydrated, eating healthy, taking vitamins (preferably whole food supplements), getting plenty of sleep and managing stress. By integrating each of these steps into your daily life, you will certainly increase your chances of having a happy, healthy, injury-free 2012.
Dr. Brandon Nevel is a chiropractor practicing in Jupiter, Florida. Dr. Nevel has post-graduate certifications in sports (CCSP) and extremities (CCEP) and is a USPTA tennis professional. For more information on injury prevention, visit www.TheJupiterChiropractor.com or call Sport & Spinal Rehab at 561-406-6905.