7 Ways to Ease Pain and Avoid Injury
Sue FalsoneDecember 10, 2008
Everything you do in the gym, at work, and at home either makes you more susceptible to injury or helps reduce your risk for pain. Tip the scales in your favor with these seven simple tips.
1. Straighten Up
Most people realize there’s potential for injury when moving or performing an athletic activity, but what you may not realize is that poor posture can have similar if not more detrimental effects on your body than sports and exercise.
When you slouch, lock your knees, or sit with your head forward, for instance, you place unnecessary stress on areas of the body that were never built to handle it. Over time, your muscles will tighten from trying to compensate for poor posture and your joints will ache from the excessive stress placed on them. So what’s the fix?
- Sit up straight, but keep your back naturally arched—your back’s natural curve is meant to help transfer force
- Keep your ears aligned with your shoulders, hips and ankle bones when sitting or standing
- Avoid hours of the same posture—try to change your position as often as possible.
2. Invest 5 minutes a Day in Injury Avoidance
We all live busy lives, but what’s more important than your health? Don’t wait to think about your body until it lets you down. That’s like thinking about retirement when you’re broke. You spend time and effort investing your money to achieve a great return. So invest in your body with proactive exercise, or what we call “prehab.” To get started, use Floor Y’s and T’s to help protect your upper body, mini band walks for your lower body, and planks, pillars & bridges for core stability.
3. Stay in Control of Your Body
Flexibility is not only movement through a range of motion, but it is the ability to control the movement through the range. Without neuromuscular control, range of motion is useless. Think of a fast car that can handle successive curves on a road. If the car did not have the appropriate braking and accelerating actions, the drive would not be smooth or safe. The same concept applies to movement in the human body. The greater the flexibility you have, the more coordinated strength you need to direct your movement appropriately.
4. Wake Up Your Muscles
Injury is often caused by one muscle group—often times, your glutes or shoulder stabilizers—being completely shut off. This causes other areas of the body to compensate, leading to injury. Following your movement preparation program will activate these inactive areas and enable your body to recall movements you may have not used since childhood.
5. Pay Attention to Your Feet
Improving the strength of your foot intrinsic muscles (the small, stabilizing muscles) will build a greater base for movement. On the other hand, lack of foot intrinsic strength will lead to inefficient movement patterns, placing excessive stress on the foot, ankle, knee, hip and low back. To check the status of your arch, see if the inside bones of your feet touch the ground. If they do, you can benefit from simple exercises to support your arch. Here are a couple:
- Sit in a chair with feet flat on the ground with toes pointing straight ahead.
- Then, place a towel under feet and curl toes trying to pull towel under foot while rolling feet out to lift arch up.
- Go for 1 minute, and repeat a total of 3 times.
Tennis Ball Foot Massage
- Place your foot on top of the ball and slowly apply pressure as you roll your foot over it. You may find some tender spots. That’s OK.
- Apply enough pressure so it’s a little uncomfortable, but not painful.
- Do this for about 5 minutes on each foot once a day.
6. Stay on the Lookout for Warning Signs
Pay attention to the small aches and pains that creep up in your training. They’re usually a red flag that some part of your training is not being performed correctly. It may be related to training intensity, mechanics (compensations), or slight positional faults. Ignoring them can only lead to bigger problems that may significantly impact your training later on. You’re probably already aware of your weaknesses. Start training them.
7. Follow a Real Plan
Performing workouts at random can result in injury if your training is unbalanced. You may strengthen some muscles at the expense of others, creating imbalances that result in pain or injury. So set long term goals to help set your motivation in place and help define direction and purpose in your training, but also set specific, clear, short-term goals to guide and focus you along the way. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Did I move closer to my goal today?”