Have you ever had an injury that you knew was coming? Did you ever hear yourself say, “It was only a matter of time” or “I knew it was going to happen.” I know that has happened to me several times with hamstring strains and elbow pain from playing baseball. The problem was I knew I could have prevented it somehow, but I did not know then how to do so because I was lacking in my knowledge of injury prevention and human anatomy. Now as a chiropractor I am able to prevent many injuries for myself and my patients through my years of education and experience. Here, I’d like to show you some ways how I do this.
First off, let’s be clear that there is no way to completely avoid injuries. Injuries are going to happen. Some injuries occur due to the stresses of your sport or activity (think UCL tears in baseball, tennis elbow, or concussions) and some occur due to unforeseen freak injuries (think ski crashes, foul balls off the leg, or landing on someone else’s foot in basketball) and those we can’t always do much about. But many injuries like non-impact ACL tears, hamstring strains, shoulder impingement, plantar fasciitis, and medial elbow pain can be prevented through the use of resistance training, soft tissue mobilization, and proper biomechanics. Let’s take a look at how each of the three categories can be used to reduce your risk of future injury.
Wolff’s Law states that your bones will respond to the loads and stresses that are placed upon them. Therefore, working your muscles will not only increase muscular strength, but will also increase demand on bones and joints to make them stronger as well. A stronger foundation will lead to fewer injuries because the tissue will be able to absorb and respond to different stresses successfully due to the slowly increasing demand placed upon them over time. Think about someone being able to squat 300 pounds. If the person tried to squat 300 pounds for the first time in their life without ever having squatted over 100 pounds before, the odds of an injury are quite high. However, if they gradually worked up to squatting 275 pounds successfully then the 300 pound squat would not be as stressful on their tissues and the odds of injury would be much less. Getting our bodies prepared for the activity and demands that we require of them through strength training is one way to avoid injury. Here’s another:
Soft Tissue Mobilization
For the cases of “I can feel my hamstring is bothering me,” or “My foot just doesn’t feel right,” or “My elbow starts to get tight every time I throw,” soft tissue mobilization is usually the best way to reduce the risk of an injury. When those three phrases are uttered, it usually means that a mobility deficiency is at play and further stress to the area can cause a serious injury to occur. More demand placed upon the tissue is usually the wrong way to go as most of these injuries are the result of overuse so to use them more will often exacerbate the problem instead of facilitating healing. This is why it is important to seek soft tissue treatment for mobility problems. Soft tissue mobilization will increase the passive range of motion of a tissue, decrease scar tissue from overuse, and help get rid of that “tightness” that people often feel. Our bodies are built to move, but if one area becomes rigid other areas will compensate leading to a higher risk of injury in multiple areas. This is why getting ahead of injuries through soft tissue care can save you from much pain and frustration down the road.
Proper biomechanics is extremely important during movement. After our tissue is free to move we must make sure that we own the movement by being able to move well and properly. Here’s a little experiment that really details how important biomechanics and motor control are: pull your ankle to your butt with your hand (like a quad stretch); now do the same movement but without using your hand. The space between where your ankle is without your hand and where it is using your hand is where injuries occur because it represents a range of motion beyond our control. By focusing on exercises that decrease that space and increase motor control we can decrease the risk of injury in all joints and improve the stability of our movements.
Now that we’ve seen three ways to decrease the risk of injury there is really no excuse to (Do you meant not?) use those two phrases we talked about in the beginning of the article. Get exercising now and challenge those tissues! Find a gym or a trainer and start to load them up. If you feel something start to bother you, find someone who can diagnose whether your pain/tightness is a mobility or stability issue and get it treated before you tear something and upend the next few months of your life.
Dr. Ryan Hamilton at Hamilton Chiropractic in Belmont is able to diagnose those problems properly, get you moving properly again, and can refer patients to highly skilled personal trainers as well. At Hamilton Chiropractic, our goal is to always care for our patients in the best possible way for them and we tailor our treatments to the individual instead of applying blanket protocols to our patients. If you’ve had a chronic issue or multiple injuries in the past maybe a more individualized treatment plan is what you need. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about your health or would like to set up an appointment!
248A Harbor Blvd.,
Belmont, CA 94002