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home : health : health June 24, 2016

3/18/2014 12:55:00 PM
The injuries of spring
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

It's not easy to hold back when the mercury climbs past 60, the air turns velvety and the sun calls you to climb off the couch and get outside. The hiking and biking trails beckon; the tennis court net is up - and look at all that yardwork that needs to be done!

Ah, spring ... the season of injuries waiting to happen.

Local massage therapists and physical therapy practitioners don't need to look at a calendar to know it's spring. They can tell by the influx of clients with sore shoulders, aching backs, barking knees, tennis elbow.

There's no mystery here.

"It all falls back to the 'Terrible Twos,'" says physical therapist Jason Gulley of Green Ridge Physical Therapy & Wellness. "Too much, too soon, too fast with too little break."

Sabrina Gustat, massage therapist and proprietor of Three Sisters Healing Arts, concurs.

"I get super-busy in the spring, 'cause everybody gets off the couch a little too fast," she says. "People get a little bit of spring fever and want to rake up all the pine needles in one day."

Since most of her spring injury clients are hurting themselves out in the yard, she has the word for tackling the yardwork: "Know your limits."

Getting up and down; the repetitive motion of raking; lifting and carrying heavy loads - all put just as much strain on you as a big hike or a game of tennis. You should treat your yardwork just like you'd treat an athletic activity: "You definitely want to warm up and go slow - don't go straight to the hard stuff," Gustat says.

It may seem silly to warm up for yardwork, but racking yourself up for a couple of weeks is even sillier. And you should never just jump on the bike and go or hit the course and start belting the ball.

Static stretching is out, whether you're a weed warrior or an athlete. Stretching is a good thing, but it should be it's own activity. Doing a lot of static stretching right before vigorous exercise can actually increase your chance of injury.

"Typically what we advocate is some kind of dynamic warm-up," says Matt Kirchoff of Therapeutic Associates.

A dynamic workout is basically just moving, getting your joints loosened up and the blood flowing. Gulley recommends shoulder shrugs, squeezing your shoulder blades together, gently rotating the shoulders and the trunk. Simply walking is a great way to loosen up and get the blood pumping.

Once you're warmed up, be smart about how much you do at one time. Kirchoff notes that cyclists who start putting on the mileage too fast often show symptoms of tendonitis around the knees. And Gulley sees older patients who trigger plantar fasciitis by hiking too far too soon.

Ramp up slowly - adding no more than 10 or 15 percent to your mileage per week. If you neglected your off-season training, resist the temptation to try to make up for it. You'll only put yourself at risk of knocking yourself out for the whole season with an injury.

If you are experiencing pain that lasts two weeks or more, or doesn't fade 10 minutes into an activity, better make an appointment with a professional. The sooner you get a nagging injury corrected, the better you'll feel and the less chance of it turning into a more serious problem.

So warm up and go slow - take time to smell the flowers. It's spring, after all.

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