Yes, we all know Physical Therapy is awesome and the highlight of any patient’s day. But let’s be honest, preventing injuries requiring Physical Therapy in the first place is even better. Here are some simple tips to help you stay healthy and out of the clinic.
- Stay active
“Motion is lotion.” “Use it or lose it.” “Movement is Medicine.” As corny as these phrases are, they are true! Your body is designed to move and will function best with regular activity. Nearly every system in the body is affected (and improved) with exercise. Through exercise joints get lubrication from synovial fluid, your muscle flexibility and strength improves, your heart becomes more efficient, your lung capacity increases, your bones become stronger, and the list goes on. Research shows even your brain is affected by activity (smarter, improved memory, and improved psychological well-being). Having your body function at its optimal state will prevent the risk of injury with activities as well as decrease the chronic pain issues that come with a sedentary lifestyle. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise 5 days a week as well as a minimum 2 days of strength training weekly (for a healthy adult).
- But don’t overdo it
On the flip side, one must be cautious not to do too much too quickly when it comes to exercise. Your body requires a recovery period to respond to the stress you place on it. This recovery phase is when the physiologic improvements take place-the connective tissue in your tendons and ligaments build back up to increase their tensile force, and your muscle fibers repair and rebuild to become stronger. If you continually wear down the tissues with exercise and never allow for recovery, an overuse injury is inevitable (think tendonitis, shin splints, stress fractures). You also place your body at risk for an acute injury such as a muscle strain or ligament sprain if these structures are fatigued or asked to do more than they are ready for. As a general rule, it is best to progress your exercise regimen no more than 10% per week.
- Wear protective equipment
Hopefully this one goes without saying, but protective equipment actually does help prevent injuries. Be sure helmets and pads are fit correctly in order to be effect. This category also includes wearing seat belts and using head rests in cars as these can reduce the effects of high impact and whiplash injuries.
- Take frequent breaks at work
Poor posture and prolonged static positions can lead to various conditions including headaches, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder impingement and neck pain. Your body is designed to move (see point #1.)! Set a timer on your phone or computer to remind you then get up and move: grab some water, do a couple stretches, walk around and get the blood flowing. Studies show moving every 15-20 minutes from a static position is optimal for body function.
- Use proper lifting mechanics
The act of squatting and lifting can place a tremendous amount of force throughout your spine and joints. Poor mechanics, therefore, have the potential to cause a great deal of harm potentially leading to injuries in your low back, hips and knees. When lifting, keep your core engaged, keep your back flat, hinge at the hips, and keep your knees in line with your second toe but not forward over your toes.
Following these simple tips will help you avoid some of the most common injuries seen in a Physical Therapy clinic. Prevention is the best form of medicine and it is our goal to keep you feeling healthy and happy. Unfortunately sometimes injuries are inevitable though, and if that happens, we will be here waiting for you.