Although being active and exercising helps to improve health, it also increases risk of injury. After all, if you don't move from the couch how likely are you to sustain an injury? By far, the most common type of athletic injuries we treat at 1st Choice Healthcare are repetitive stress injuries or (RSI). As the term implies, these are not single-event traumas such as a sprained ankle, a slip and fall or a bike crash. They are injuries caused by accumulative and repetitive activities that are a part of any sport.
When exercising, the general intention (if done correctly) is to force the body beyond what it is capable of at that time. This causes the body to become stronger, faster, more flexible and agile. This is a natural response that occurs and follows a well known rule referred to as the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. It's what the athlete desires to accomplish. The basic premise is to cause some sort of micro-trauma to an organ system in the body, allow the body time to repair and recover, then repeat the process and incrementally increase the activity until the desired level of fitness is reached.
Unfortunately, many errors are likely to occur during this process that plague athletes (from novice to elite) and ultimately result in injuries. Although not each and every possibility can be predetermined or prevented, there are some basic strategies that help minimize the possibility of repetitive stress injuries. In this article I will address one of the aspects of this injury-reduction approach and will continue to visit other related elements in future pieces.
Injury Reduction Approach
Here is a simple (and yes, it takes extra time) routine that has proven effective. When starting your exercise session, begin with a 10 to 12 minute warm-up. This should be an activity that imitates the exercise you are about to perform except done in a slower, more controlled manner. The intention here is to drive more blood to those parts of your body that you are about to exercise. This causes the core temperature of the muscle to increase and loosens up the joints in the area so that they both are more prepared to handle the task at hand. In addition, it begins to drive more oxygen and nutrients to those body parts so they can be prepared to perform a higher level of function for an extended period of time.
This should be followed by some form of self myofascial release (SMR). The typical tools we recommend are the foam roller or the stick for the larger muscles and a tennis ball or a golf ball for the smaller areas. Once the warm up is done, you should use these tools to rub the respective muscles, usually for 30 seconds to one minute per muscle area. Be firm, but do not crush the tissue.
This process aids in opening up the myofascial fibers that surround the entire body. As the muscles are forced to perform, they demand increased blood flow which causes them to increase in size and circumference. Loosening the fascial layers allows the muscle to accomplish this more easily and with less effort.