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Prevention is the Key

Water skiing on the Yarra River in MelbourneHave you been working in the garden, hiking, biking the ChaFe, water skiing, wake boarding or rafting the Pack River?? Summer in Sandpoint is in full swing, too much to do and not enough time. I know so many of us are burning both ends of the candle these days trying to fit it all in before September 1st. Prevention and pacing are the keys to injury prevention.

When we are young not only are we physically stronger but we often have more time to exercise and maintain our flexibility, strength and endurance. Even our reflexes and balance are better. This equates to less injuries. When we are 25 or 30, if we don’t exercise on a regular basis then go out on the weekend and do a day’s worth of gardening, hiking, or biking, our bodies don’t mind. We may have some muscle soreness the next day, but generally by the second day we are back to normal. After age 30 however, our muscle mass decreases 1% per year. This means we need to be working out at the gym or doing some type of exercise 3 times a weel to prevent this loss. We also need to increase our attention to flexibility as people who do not move all winter long tend to get stiff.

Prevention is the key to avoiding injury. Start with stretching. Muscle tightness occurs when the muscle becomes shortened and can cause muscle imbalance. Shortened muscles can become torn with quick movements or prolonged activities. Muscle imbalance occurs when one muscle is not working enough and its neighbor decides to increase its effort. This often leads to overworking a muscle which can cause injury.   I find that most people don’t stretch before AND after their activities, don’t hold the stretch long enough, or repeat the stretch. Every muscle in the body has a specific stretch, so if you don’t get the sensation of pulling and you’re not an extremely flexible person, it is likely that you’re doing the wrong stretch for that muscle. I prefer my patients to hold their stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. It is really important to hold the stretch long enough for the muscle to actually relax. Also, do not bounce, hold the muscle steady. Stretching before the activity lengthens the muscle and gets it ready to work. Stretching after wards avoids cramping as the muscle cools down and shortens.

Pacing yourself is also a good rule when trying to avoid injuries.   Gardening with lots of bending and stooping may require you to stand quietly or bend backwards and reverse your curve for a few minutes every 30 minutes. Hiking and biking long distances are best accomplished without muscle soreness or injury if people start with short distances and increase their distances over time. If you know you will be going on a long drive, plan ahead to stop as much as every 30 minutes to reverse your curve, even if it is just to walk around the car for a few minutes. Water skiing and wake boarding may require doing some shoulder and back stretching ahead of time. Rafting the Pack? Depending on the type of floaty you choose, get out and bend backwards after sitting for more than 30-60 minutes.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council. Call her with questions at 290-5575.

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