When you start to get physically active and have been active for quite a while, aches and pains can start creeping up and eventually certain injuries can take over. However, that doesn't mean you should keep getting injured. There's a reason why it is happening it all starts with how you look at the injuries.
How do you look at your injuries?
Imagine this, there is a person being mugged in an alley at gunpoint and screaming for help. How is this problem resolved so that the person is happy and stops screaming? Do you just go hit them a few times until they shut up? Or do you subdue the attacker and have them removed from the situation, leaving the person to get over the grief over time and go back to normal life?... you know the right answer. We would help the person being attacked.
So let's look at that same analogy and this time the person screaming for help is your injured shoulder/knee/hip (anything really) and the mugger is a muscle/tendon/ligament strain a little further down the line. Do you attack the injured area? Or do you attack the area further down the line?
Injuries are a symptom of something else secretly going on.
When we have an injury around a joint or near a joint it is almost never caused by what is happening in said joint. It is usually a result of some form of tension, strain or injury in the surrounding area. The pain we feel is because there is pulling or pushing occurring from a system upstream or downstream from where the pain is being felt.
Let's take it back a step…
I'm not saying that the pain in your shoulder isn't from your labrum tear or rotator cuff issues. Or that your knee or ankle isn't actually sore or injured. What I'm saying is; we have a habit of treating the area where the injury is and don't look any further into it to find the cause of said injury. These structures are breaking for a reason and we just slap some (figurative) glue on it, wait for it to dry and use it again in hope that it won't break again.
There is a better way.
Try to think of the human body like a series of pulleys. The tendons and ligaments are the ropes to your system. The joints on the body are the pulley wheels. Now let's imagine along each pulley line there are helpers that pull the rope in between each pulley wheel when it is needed (these are your muscles).
Why do we get injured?
Let's now imagine what would happen if one of the ropes (ligaments or tendon) had a knot (scar tissue) in it or if one of the line helpers stopped working and just sat on the rope (muscle strain or a knot). It's going to pull the rope tighter and hold tension there for a long time. That means the even when the line is relaxed the pulley wheel (the joint) is constantly under tension. If that structure isn't meant to hold that kind of tension there for that long it will break or fall out of place (injury around a joint). If it breaks it can be fixed but unless the knot in the rope (tendon/ligament scar tissue) can be fixed or the helper on the rope line (muscle knot or strain) can be put back into working order, it will continue to break and get worse over time.
So by fixing our tight muscles and repairing fully after minor injuries we can ensure our body will always be in perfect working order. Body maintenance should be one of the top priorities on the to do list daily. Myofascial therapy, meditation, stretching, yoga, walking, journal entries… they all play a vital role in keeping the human body working to be a finely tuned machine.
Here's 5 quick tips to help with making that body work better for you:
1. Spend 5-10 minutes foam rolling daily
Set out a foam rolling routine and stick to it every day. 5-10 minutes every day isn't much to make sure your body is working in peak condition.
2. Stretch, contract & stretch
There will be another article about this soon. But the basics of this is; spend 10 minutes stretching twice per day and when you do you will stretch the muscle, push back or rest against the stretch and then stretch that muscle a little further. It will make a world of difference to your mobility
3. Do your warm ups right!
A warm up isn't just there for the fun of it. It is there to warm the blood, muscles and joints and ensure that you are ready for exercise. Going for a 400m jog or 500m row isn't a warm up, it's the start of a warm up. You should have dynamic stretches and also look at having ballistic stretches before then getting the heart rate jacked and ready for the workout. If you're the sort of person that walks into a gym, picks up a bar and just starts lifting, you're doing it wrong. Learn how to warm up properly and your body will thank you for it.
4. Prehab those shoulders, hips, knees & ankles.
Prevention is better than a cure. Once you have learned how to warm the right way, you should have some sort of minor resistance in your dynamic warm up. This might be with bands or with some small resistance from the body. It will be a warm up for the joints and the tiny muscles that help them move effectively (think shoulder girdle, hips, ankles and knees) once this part of your warm up is done you should have no question that your joints are ready for the workout.
5. Cool down
There are a lot of people that skip the cool down portion of a workout, calling it unnecessary and a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cool down portion of the workout is a way to help with the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) that you get in a couple of days after working out and helps keep the muscles moving better so you can hit the gym again sooner. Take 5 minutes and do a light cardio movement coupled with some light stretching in between and you'll feel great the next day.
Follow these 5 tips and make sure that you consult an allied health professional for not only your initial consultation when you are injured, but also make sure that you get the follow ups done too. Just because the joint is fixed does not mean the issue has gone away. You might need a lot more work than you think.