Read these 13 Injury Prevention and Conditioning Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Balance tips and hundreds of other topics.
The theory behind foot reflexology is that certain areas of the foot correspond to certain areas of the body. A reflexologist will massage the appropriate area to relieve pain or improve function. Non-specific foot massage is also beneficial, as it stimulates many areas of the foot, improving balance and circulation. A similar theory is behind cobblestone walking--an ancient Chinese practice that persists to this day. Cobblestone walking parks can be found in China, Indonesia, parts of Europe, and the U.S. Research has found that cobblestone walking improves function, improves mobility, and reduces blood pressure in older adults. Foot massage also feels really good, so it's not hard to convince people to do this healthy activity.
There are many specialty areas in the field of physical therapy; common specializations that rely heavily on restoring, maintaining and building balance include geriatric physical therapy, neurological physical therapy, orthopedic physical therapy and pediatric physical therapy. Geriatric physical therapy focuses on developing programs to help increase fitness levels, reduce pain and restore mobility in people affected by issues associated with normal adult aging, including arthritis, osteoporosis, hip and joint replacement, and balance disorders, as well as cancers, Alzheimer's disease and incontinence. Neurological physical therapists specialize in working with people who have neurological disorders or diseases, such as ALS, Alzheimer's, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, as well as individuals coping with the effects of brain injury, spinal cord injury or stroke. These effects can include poor balance, impaired vision, paralysis and immobility, and a general loss of functional independence. Orthopedic physical therapy is probably the type that most people think about when they hear the term “physical therapy.” Orthopedic therapists diagnose, manage, and treat musculoskeletal disorders and injuries, and they rehabilitate patients after orthopedic surgery. Orthopedic therapists leverage strength training, joint mobilizations, heat and cold, and electrical stimulation to support and treat patients suffering injuries or diseases that affect the muscles, bones, ligaments, or tendons. Pediatric physical therapists are specialized in the dealing with congenital, developmental, neuromuscular, skeletal, or acquired disorders or diseases in children. Pediatric physical therapy treatments help improve gross and fine motor skills, balance, coordination, strength and endurance.
If your muscles and tendons cannot handle the stress loads of a given sport or activity in which you participate, you will most likely hurt yourself. Strength and flexibility are the cornerstones of physical fitness, and they – in turn – depend on a well-developed sense of balance and ability to react. If your muscles are weak or tight, there is a greater risk of injury. Stick with your balance and core strength training, and layer on muscle-specific exercises if your chosen sport or activity demands additional development of those muscle groups. Remember, though, never to pursue isolating training on its own – always have functional training as your foundation for fitness.
ACL injuries are one of the main causes of permanent sports disability. ACL injuries are more common among female athletes than male athletes, but gymnasts, soccer players, basketball players and volleyball players are all at risk due to sudden stops and starts, high-impact landings, and lateral movements. The good news is that a combination of functional training and lower-limb muscle development can help prevent injuries. Common, non-functional exercises for ACL protection include using jump training and leg curls to strengthen your hamstrings. It is also recommended that you avoid turning or landing with straight legs. These are good tips, but it is provocative that a study that included 600 Italian male semi-professional soccer players found that found that proprioceptive training reduced ACL injury rates by over 700%. Definitely incorporate balance training into your workout regimen to help safeguard your ACL, and maintain your flexibility by being sure to always cool down and stretch after exercise
Proper rest and nutrition are necessary for optimal athletic performance and preventing injury. If you do not get enough sleep and/or not consume an adequate diet, you will only put additional strain on your internal organs and muscles. This will hold you back and could set you up for injury. A key component of the proper nutritional balance is hydration: dehydration of as little as 2% can affect physical performance, making injury – as well as fatigue, headaches, and nausea, more likely. Even people with relatively sedentary lifestyles should drink at least 64 ounces of water each day, and active people should be sure they drink at least 8 additional ounces for each half hour of exercise.
A sprained ankle is the most common injury sustained by athletes, and it is a common injury even among people engaging in everyday activities. Ankle sprains occur and reoccur because of failures in ankle flexibility and strength, but it is a fundamental loss of balance and control in the entire leg that precedes most ankle injuries. Training balance can reinforce the protective, proprioceptive mechanisms in the leg and decrease the chances of injury.
Swimmers tend to develop muscular instability that causes shoulder pain. This can be prevented by using proper swimming technique and by working to achieve balance between the muscles and other structures of the front and back of the shoulder. Common swimmer's stretches can overstretch the anterior (front) capsule of the shoulder. Use exercise resistance bands to help balance the shoulder joint. Loop a resistance band around a post, hold one end in each hand, then pull back with a rowing motion, pulling your shoulder blades together. External rotation with bands will strengthen the rotator cuff of the shoulder.
Too much too soon is often the cause of overuse injury. You should start slow when beginning a new exercise program or sport, or trying to achieve a higher level of proficiency or intensity in a given sport or exercise program. To reach your peak performance, slowly build the intensity of your workouts - an increase of about 10% each week is usually recommended as a safe program to prepare your body for the full-blown version of an activity and to prevent injury. As exercise becomes more intense, be aware that some soreness is normal as your muscles adapt to the increasing workload, but you should never put yourself in a position or at an intensity level that causes musculoskeletal pain.
Proprioception exercises are designed to restore your kinesthetic awareness and to form a foundation for establishing or reestablishing the coordination, agility, strength and endurance athletes require for safe and effective activities. These exercises are simple to perform and place minimal stress on healing tissues, so many can be done sooner than more rigorous exercises. Implementing proprioceptive work early in the rehabilitative process will help an athlete gain better control over his or her muscles and movements, enhancing the development of muscular strength and endurance.
Falling will most commonly occur where there is inactivity, leg muscle weakness, poor balance, or poor vision. Slowly adopting a more active lifestyle and proactively training your proprioceptive abilities will help minimize the chance of fall due to physiological deficits. This type of preventative health management is incredibly valuable. By engaging in injury prevention though preventative maintenance, you will be stronger and healthier and spend less money on doctors!
Your ability to react is one of the first reflexes to suffer when you are fatigued, and this can lead to injury. Think about hockey, football, soccer and other team ports. Now consider skiing, inline skating, and other individual pastimes that require balance and agility. In all of these cases, the ability to react quickly to objects in your path or people coming is very important to avoiding collision, staying on your feet, and remaining in control of your movements and actions – essentially, keeping out of high-risk situations. Speed may be developed by improving technique utilizing efforts with a 6 second maximum effort. Agility and coordination emphasize neuromuscular control and are the culmination of all physical fitness factors, and will be best enhanced through balance and core strength training.
Fitter1 Tip: Exercise bands are rubber resistance bands and cables used for functional strength training, core strength, and core stability. Individuals, classes, and physical therapists use resistance bands. If you're in physical therapy or need a daily workout on the go, exercise bands are great to travel with.
Fitter1 Tip: With the Cobblestone Walkway, you can have your own cobblestone path. It comes in 72-inch length for walking. The 16 x 16-inch cobblestone mat will give you a fine foot massage. The Cobblestone Walkway comes with instructions for the same 16-week program that was so successful in a research study.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|