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The Weekend Warrior's Toolkit: Tips for Injury Prevention & Treatment

Summer has arrived, and with the season comes the onslaught of weekend warriors. Warm weather and sunshine can be enough to get even the most obstinate couch potatoes up and running. Orthopedic injuries come in second only to the common cold on the list of most common reasons for doctor visits. So, whether you are soaking up the precious summer weekends on the mountain, on the lake, or breaking in your new pair of running shoes, use these tips to help avoid a would-be injury.

1) Know your limitations. These days we are inundated with an explosion of workout techniques in which pushing yourself to the absolute maximum is the name of the game. P90X, Insanity, CrossFit, and other equally intense programs have flooded the market. These may be excellent if you’re not at risk for any orthopedic injuries, but going from sedentary to intensely active can be a recipe for landing yourself in the ER on a Saturday afternoon. Don’t let the fear of injury keep you from being active, but it’s important to remember that you aren’t 18 anymore. Your doctor can help you decide what is within healthy limits for you.

2) Change it up. Many weekend warriors engage in one type of activity. Racquetball, cycling, water skiing. No matter your choice in activity, they all have something in common: The repetitive use of and stress on the same muscle groups. Vary your activity throughout the week as well as keeping your weekend wars diversified. As we age, our ability to recover quickly from bodily stress is reduced. A mix of activities will not only allow your body to recover more easily but will also provide a greater health benefit than engaging in only one type of exercise. This includes not only varying each individual activity, but also engaging in activities which involve both strength or resistance training as well as cardiovascular training.

3) Increase your weekly activity. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we should all be engaging in vigorous exercise 3-4 times a week, but aside from the health benefits of regular exercise, staying more active during the week decreases our chance of sustaining orthopedic injuries when we hit the weekend hard. Even simple activities such as walking 30 minutes a few times a week can keep our joints lubricated, muscles supple, and our bodies more prepared to enjoy a busy weekend.

4) Warm up and cool down properly. While you may have been able to run for miles without warming up in your teenage years, jumping into the same activities in your later years can cause you undue pain and even injury. Stretch and warm up with walking or light jogging for 10 minutes before diving headfirst into the activity of choice. Similarly, cool down with 10 minutes of light walking and stretching after finishing. If you are so exhausted that all you can do is plop yourself onto the couch, you’ve pushed yourself too hard. Budget cool-down time into your workouts and activities.

5) When it doubt, check it out. If an orthopedic injury isn’t addressed in a timely manner, it can cause serious negative side-effects in the future. Injuries which are allowed to heal improperly can lead to chronic pain and further muscle dysfunction as well as a greater future risk for re-injury. Signs you should see the doc include:

  • Extreme pain which limits normal activities or range of motion.
  • Numbness or tingling in the injured area or an area surrounding the injury.
  • A change in color of the injured area. If the area looks pale or, conversely, reddened or inflamed.
  • If an injury has not markedly improved within 1 week.
  • If swelling or bruising lasts for more than 2 weeks, even if the area is no longer painful.

If, despite your best efforts to prepare, you end up with a minor injury, just remember P.R.I.C.E.

  • P for Protect. Limit the mobility of the affected area and protect it from the opportunity of re-injury.
  • R for Rest. Let your pride fall to the wayside. Attempting to become active on an injury before it has sufficiently healed can exponentially increase the severity and recovery time than if you had simply given yourself adequate rest the first time around.
  • I for Ice. Icing within the first 48 hours of an injury is crucial. After that, the benefit of ice is greatly diminished. Make an easy, inexpensive ice pack at home by mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol to 2 parts water and sealing the mixture inside of doubled ziploc bags. This mixture creates a “super ice” which is colder than water alone. The alcohol also prevents the mixture from freezing solid, allowing the pliable pack to be applied to a variety of areas. Ice injuries for 15-20 minutes at a time, every hour or so. You can ice as often as is necessary to control pain and inflammation as long as the tissue is warm to the touch and has regained full sensation between icing. Icing longer or more often than this can cause tissue and blood vessel damage.
  • C for Compress: Use an ace bandage or cohesive crepe tape to lightly compress the injured area. This reduces inflammation and excess fluid buildup at the injury site. Compression should never cut off circulation to a bodily area. If you feel tingling, numbness, or if tissue appears pale or blue, unwrap the area and wrap more loosely.
  • E for Elevate: If possible, an injury should be elevated to a position above the heart. This reduces inflammation as well as reduces the amount of fluid which accumulates at an injury site.

For more information about preventing and treating some of the most commonly sustained weekend warrior injuries, check out this US News article.


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Comment by Jed Heneberry on August 8, 2012 at 4:18pm

I could benefit from #1—sore!

Comment by Sean Vierra on August 6, 2012 at 6:51pm

For more information on massage, bodywork, and alternative approaches to health and wellness, visit my blog.

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