While preventative medicine may begin in the doctor’s office, to be truly effective, it must extend far beyond the confines of an exam room, reaching out onto the field, the court, in the pool, or at the gym. Part of keeping your body strong is knowing how to prevent injury, whether that be from macro trauma-tissue damage resulting from a single injury-, or overuse. There are several ways in which athletes and fitness enthusiasts can help themselves and others in preventing injury.
Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs
Cold muscles are more prone to injury, which makes warm-ups an essential start to any physical activity. Warm-ups literally warm your cold muscles, increasing blood flow which in turn increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, as well as making muscles more supple and ready for stretching.
A warm-up should be a less intense version of the sport or activity in which you are about to participate, and should last anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes depending upon how vigorous your activity will be. Make sure that your warm-up fits with what you will be doing, the muscles you will be working during your sport or fitness routine.
Equally as important as your warm-up, is your cool-down. Your cool-down should consist of the same low-intensity workout as your warm-up.
Warm-ups should be followed by some light dynamic stretches, while cool-downs should be followed by light static stretches.
One of the best safety measures anyone with an active lifestyle can take is to stay well hydrated. Hydration doesn’t just prevent heat exhaustion, but provides an array of benefits including helping you to stay more alert, aids in endurance, and lubricates joints. Signs of poor hydration can include fatigue, muscle cramps, and dizziness. Proper hydration-before, during, and after exercise-helps you to perform at your best, and helps to prevent some of the more unpleasant post-workout symptoms.
Know Your Body’s Limits
Listen to your body. Know its limits. Rest is an essential part of living a healthy and active lifestyle, and is necessary to allow muscles to repair, rebuild, and strengthen. Lack of rest can lead to overuse injuries, which take a much greater toll on your overall progress than taking that one day or two a week to allow your body to rest and heal.
Building rest days in to your regular workout or sports schedule can help in preventing over-training syndrome, a serious condition characterized by symptoms such as feelings of being washed-out, tired, or drained; sudden drop in performance, moodiness and irritability, depression, and decreased appetite.
Know When to Seek Help
Soreness and stiffness may be commonplace among people who habitually workout or play sports, but how do you know when it may be time to see your doctor?
Redness, swelling, or warmth to the touch around the affected joint or muscle, severe pain that worsens with exercise, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and muscle soreness lasting more than a week are all signs that it’s time to call an orthopedic doctor. Ignoring these symptoms or simply brushing them off as common workout related wear-and-tear can lead to more damage, and more problems down the line, some that may even necessitate surgery.