We have met the first indicator that spring is on the way. We've moved the hands on the clock ahead one hour. I’ve also seen my first Robin of the spring season. The pile of snow in the yard across the street is still there so I’m not going to pronounce it spring time just yet, but it is certainly on the way.
As spring approaches I start to think about the change in the nature of issues with which patients present. Winter sees strains related to snow removal, but also has a great number of blunt force impact injuries related to slips and falls as well. Spring time, however, has a good number of use/overuse issues that patients will suffer.
There are a few quick and easy instructions to help you avoid some of these use/overuse issues. Just as spring time is a gradual process taking us from winter to summer, we have to approach our introduction of demands on our bodies in a very similar way.
- Warm-up. You don’t have to be a premier athlete to have to go through the process of warming up and cooling down in relation to our activities. It also doesn’t need to be an athletic event. If we are going to go out and rake the dead grass from the lawn we have to appreciate that our bone, joints and soft tissues are being loaded in a way that we are not necessarily accustomed to. Don’t confuse this as not know HOW to do a task, rather it’s an issue of not being CONDITIONED to the task. Going for a short, brisk walk followed by some gradual stretching of the regions of the body that will be most involved in the task is a good warm up. It doesn’t have to take hours, just 10-15 minutes to get the body used to the increased level of activity.
- Reasonable Duration. You’ve been cooped up all winter and see hours of outdoor tasks ahead of you. You jump into the work head first and don’t come up until it’s finished. Best choice? Not really. Though the tasks can certainly be easy tasks, the duration of the activity can be equally injurious. Listen to what your body tells you. If you are starting to fatigue, rest. If you are thirsty, drink. If the low back is starting to ache, rest or change to another activity. Stop placing continuous demands on the same region of the body. Injury will occur.
- Intensity. You’ve got a child’s soccer game at 10 am on a Saturday morning. You get up to attack the lawn with a rake at 8 am. The job might typically take you four hours, but you hit it like a fanatic and do it in the two hours you have available. You sit to watch your kids soccer game and can’t get out of the chair due to the pain. You’ve used an intensity of effort that you are not conditioned to. You reasonable and steady effort. You are more likely to condition to the task rather than suffer from the task.
- Cool-down. See item 1. Again, you don’t need to be an elite athlete to treat your body well. Warm-up, us are reasonable effort with your activity, use a reasonable duration of the activity and cool-down with a short walk and gentle stretching. You are more likely to going to be able to tolerate your spring activities that suffer pain and injury.
- Protective Equipment. This one last item might best be at the top of the list. Depending on your sport or maintenance activity there can be equipment that can protect you from the unexpected mishaps. Using a chainsaw to remove some limbs? Eye protection, a hard hat and maybe some chaps. Taking the time and effort might just save you a trip to ER or your chiropractor. If it’s a sport, use that helmet or other recommended extremity protection. Best to use protective equipment than to spend weeks with the chiropractor. We certainly enjoy spending time with you, but we’d rather you didn’t HAVE to see us.