Injury management and prevention

Injuries are painful, debilitating, and annoying. They can range from herniated disks to sprained ankles, tendon sprains to groin pulls — even tennis elbow. Before learning about prevention and care, it’s important to know what an injury is and how it happens.

Injuries include strains, sprains, dislocation, bruising, fractures and concussions. The difference between a sprain and strain is that a strain is the stretching or tearing of a muscle, while a sprain is the stretching or tearing of a tendon.

Most injuries occur during sports activities, working out, at home or in the workplace. Often times they occur due to bad habits, such as picking things up with your back or in exercise, not using proper form. Many sports-related injuries are freak accidents, but sometimes they could have been prevented with a simple strength-training regimen.

The biggest mistake that most people make is that after an injury, they continue to do what they were doing without allowing themselves to heal. This can make the injury worse or cause injury to another part of the body due to compensations and tightness.

After an injury, it is important to first, remember the acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. Then, given no economical limitations, visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

For example, if you sprain your ankle, sit down or lie down, ice it, wrap it and stack pillows to allow for elevation. This will control the swelling.

Rest before pursuing physical activity that involves the ankle’s joint or muscles. While this can be the most challenging part of an injury, proper healing will result in long-term performance. Afterward, go to a doctor.

Normally after an injury, if surgery is not recommended, a physical therapist usually is. When seeing a physical therapist, the work done outside of their office is crucial.

According to WebPT, only 35% of patients stick to their PT programs while a study done by health services research showed that those who utilized PT as recommended had 72 percent fewer costs within the first year because of the success rate.

Many PT exercises and drills seem boring or tedious, but they are prescribed for a reason. If you lack accountability and have the finances available, seek a personal trainer who can communicate with your PT, guide you through the prescribed exercises and help you stay active with the limitations at hand.

Injuries can be prevented. Try to be aware in your day-to-day activities and workouts and focus on strengthening muscles surrounding your joints, such as the rotator cuff, hips, knees, spine, etc. This will maintain a healthy range of motion, and help to eliminate compensations.

Here are some exercises that can benefit your joints:

• Rotator Cuff: practicing good posture, external rotation, high-to-low rows, reverse fly, extended arm twist

• Hips: Hip bridges or single leg hip bridges, split squat, lateral squat, crab walks, kettlebell swings, sumo squats, deadlifts

• Knees: Squatting, leg curls, leg extensions, abduction/adduction, calf raises

• Spine: Activate your core during every exercise, planks, bear planks, morning raises, Russian twists, crunches

While doing these types of exercises, it is important to have body awareness. For example, if you are doing a row, make sure you are not shrugging or squeezing your shoulder blades. If you are squatting, make sure your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. It is important to be aware of where your body is, and that requires practice.

While doing these exercises, be sure to perform them with full range of motion. Range of motion is the full movement potential of a joint. If you are chest pressing, be sure that you are opening your chest enough during the dissension, and as you ascend do not round your shoulders as much, as you will be activating your shoulders more at that phase.

The exercises listed above are also great to practice after someone reaches full recovery and is cleared by their doctor to workout. Many people are afraid of reinjury and begin to compensate even though the injury area is healed. Slowly ease back into life and strengthen joints to prevent future injury and reinjury. Over time, you will be stronger and pain free. Seek guidance to overcome areas of discomfort.