Prevention often beats a cure – and that’s just as true with injuries as it is for any other deleterious condition. Being active itself can already be a great preventative measure against chronic and acute pain and can help reduce injury through physical fitness. However, being active in a sport or outdoor hobby is not without its risks. Certain activities carry a higher risk of injury than others, ranging from extreme examples such as snowboarding to even popular active pastimes, such as long-distance running and the increasingly popular sport of indoor rock climbing.
For people who lead an active lifestyle, injury prevention needs to be individualized, and designed around a person’s goals and current level of fitness, as well as their experience with pain and prior injuries. It’s important to remember that the biggest predictor of an injury is a previous injury in the same area.
Assessing Your Personal Injury Risk
Individual vulnerabilities can give you some insight into your potential risk for injury. For example, injury rates are higher when comparing different types of sports, as we’ve mentioned. But to take a step further, injury rates are also higher among people with previous injuries, as well as beginners or people who are coming back into an active lifestyle after a long sedentary period.
Other risk factors include playing the same sport year-round with no breaks, lack of proper equipment in training, escalating the intensity of the training too quickly, lack of proper recovery (especially food, sleep, and hydration), and certain medications that may exacerbate or increase the risk of a tendon strain, such as fluoroquinolone. in
Genetics also plays a role – if a bulging disc is a recurring and common issue among your older family members, then it’s also more likely to affect you. Age is another factor. As we get older, our likelihood of injury from certain physical activities may rise.
Learning to assess and identify potential risk factors for your own personal injuries is not about becoming anxious about certain activities or movements, but more about knowing where to prioritize in your long-term injury prevention plan.
For example, if you are an avid runner, then supplemental activities to improve knee and ankle health and injury resilience may be important. Consider adding strength training to increase the muscle size and strength around your most vulnerable joints, and properly manage your training loads. People can continue to lead active lifestyles at any age and point in time – but approaching your training responsibly is crucial.
Warm-Up: A Key Component of Injury Prevention
We have all been told to warm up before we exercise, probably from a young age. But what does that entail? The truth is that it depends on the activity you intend to pursue. There is no universal warmup for every physical activity or sport, and simply working up a sweat isn’t always enough.
You can’t assume that going for a five-minute jog will be the kind of warmup you need to safely perform a maximum effort bench press. Similarly, lifting a few light weights probably isn’t going to provide the kind of stimulus your body needs to safely start sprinting.
Choose warm up techniques that are specific to the exercises, sports, or activities that you are planning to engage in. If it’s something with an adjustable level of intensity – such as running or lifting a weight – start by walking, or lifting a lighter weight.
The Role of Strength and Flexibility in Preventing Injuries
Building strength, muscle mass, and flexibility are often underrated injury prevention methods, and often fall victim to a false dichotomy. You don’t have to become less flexible to get strong. You don’t need to give up on strength to gain mass. Your strength, size, and flexibility all improve by placing your body under certain loads and moving through a certain range of motion.
An individualized strength training plan can help you protect yourself from recurring injuries or pains by targeting your weaknesses, addressing muscular imbalances, and improving your resilience to injury by fostering a stronger, more capable joint and body part through a reasonable (not necessarily linear) progression.
Recovery and Rest: The Overlooked Aspects of Injury Prevention
An important aspect of holistic injury prevention is a comprehensive recovery plan. At its core, recovery entails nutrition and caloric intake, as well as non-sleeping rest, and high-quality sleep. Supplemental recovery options may include hot-and-cold therapy, massage therapy, and low-intensity activity to promote circulation and improve your physical conditioning.
Your body has its limits – and those limits may be approached sooner rather than later with a poor plan for long-term recovery and load management. You can’t train or approach your sport with the same fervor in a caloric deficit as you might in a caloric surplus. Even sleep affects how you recover from training – and what kind of performance you can expect to bring into your next session.
Responding to Injuries: Early Intervention and Rehabilitation
Another important element of injury prevention for active lifestyles is prompt and early intervention. When you do start feeling pain, it’s important to address and react to that pain before it can become a serious injury.
Pain can be our ally, especially when trying to prevent a more serious issue. But pain can also be misleading. Oftentimes, pain after exercise can be referred pain, or it can be caused by a different issue altogether. People should also be wary of changing their exercise plans or overreacting over a single instance of pain in one session. Look for patterns of pain instead and try to find ways to reduce your pain over time, rather than becoming entirely inactive.
PMIR specializes in providing long-term pain management solutions for active individuals. We provide holistic care via a variety of modalities targeting neuropathic pain, skeletomuscular pain, as well as idiopathic pain conditions. To learn more about our pain management solutions for active lifestyles, call us at (877) 724-6349 or contact us online.
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