Preparing Your Body Ahead of Springtime Activities
- Health Education • Apr 8, 2022
By Lauren Quattrocchi, DC
5 Minute Read
pring is officially here and that means we can slowly return to some of the outdoor activities that we enjoy. I have many patients who are looking forward to getting their gardens started, return to outdoor sports such as golf and get out walking without having to worry about the slippery sidewalks. Although it is an exciting time of year and we are presented with many new activities, it is important that we are cautious when returning to our spring habits.
When you are getting ready to plant your garden or rescue your lawn from winter’s damage, you do not just toss seeds in the ground and hope for the best. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a successful garden such as tilling the soil, fertilizing, aerating, etc. It is a process which requires many steps before one can begin planting seeds or mowing luscious green grass. Many of us do not think twice about the preparation that has to go into yard work during the spring, however I find the time we allocate to preparing our body to return to spring activities is almost non-existent.
The majority of us halt our spring/summer activities over the winter months and then come spring we jump right back in where we left off. We have to remember that for most of us it has been four or five months without performing that activity or moving our bodies in that way. Although we still have the capability to perform the activity, we have to ensure we prepare our tissues properly to avoid the risk of potential injury. If you are someone who is going to be returning to activities over the next few weeks it is important to take the time at the start of the season to condition your body to take on these new demands. Putting in extra effort and dedication now can help reduce the risk of missing out on your favorite activity during the season due to injuries.
Many of us in Nova Scotia unfortunately do not have the opportunity to golf or play as much tennis during the winter. Both of these activities place a great amount of strain on our bodies but more specifically our arms. Common injuries that many of us have heard of are the dreaded Golfers and Tennis Elbow. Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow (properly termed Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis) are overuse injuries caused by an overload in the tissues that attach onto the elbow, leading to inflammation/irritation of the tendons and muscles. Tennis elbow is the inflammation of the common extensor tendon whereas golfers elbow is an inflammation of the common flexor tendon. A diagnosis of these injuries is made clinically by a health professional and when diagnosed early it can help prevent it from becoming a chronic injury. Treatment of medial and lateral epicondylitis typically includes anti-inflammatories, soft tissue release, acupuncture, bracing and activity modification. The big one there that I want you to focus on is activity modification. The last thing any of us want to have to do come spring and summer is to reduce our time enjoying these activities. It is not a pleasant conversation when I have to tell a patient they must take 2-3 weeks off of their golf season.
The most important thing you can do to avoid injuries when returning to activities, is to think about the movements required and the demands that you will be placing on your body. For tennis players, you will be placing a lot of strain on your forearm extensor muscles. Think about all of the movements you require to play a tennis match and then ask yourself if you have done any of those in the last few months. When your forearm is not used to the repetitive movement and increased tension from gripping the racket it could lead to injury. Your forearms are going to be under a lot of strain returning to tennis and therefore taking simple steps such as stretching before/after and strengthening the forearm can help reduce the risk of developing inflammation in these tendons. Sometimes injuries can occur despite being proactive and taking all of the appropriate measures but most are caused from going into the activity without any preparation and overloading the tissues.
Whether you are getting back to tennis or spending more time outside doing yard work it is imperative that you think about the demands you will be placing on your tissues and prepare your body accordingly. If you are not sure of what exactly to do or where to start, this is a good opportunity to check in with your clinician or trainer. Not only are we here to help when you are in pain but we can also help in a preventative manner too. Education about proper ways to bend forward when planting or the importance of hip mobility at the start of your golf round are daily discussions I have with patients during this time of year. Every activity we do requires many demands from our bodies including, good range of motion from our joints, increased load on the tissues involved and proper length-tension relationship in our muscles. Adding in daily stretching, mobility drills, icing etc. can all help prepare our bodies for the activities we are about to endure. Remember, planting good habits early in the season will help reduce the risk of injury and potential time away from your favourite spring activities. The time we dedicate to preparing to return to activities is just as important as the activity itself.