I’ve not yet heard it all, but safe to say, I’ve heard a lot. I always begin an interview with a new patient by requesting for a detailed description of the event or events leading up to the onset of pain. As a result, I’ve observed some trends and feel that I can offer some tips as to how to avoid injury.
Before I launch into some ‘don’ts’, let’s start with two ‘do’s’.
Understand your body. When you discover its complexity, you will appreciate its fragility, and hopefully show it respect. With the advent plastination (preservation of bodies or body parts by replacing fat and water with plastic), exhibits such as Body Works, Body Worlds, and The Bodies have sprung up around the world. This gives people the opportunity to see prosected humans (dissected by an expert anatomist) without having to go into a cadaver laboratory and be exposed to dangerous chemical vapors. What this allows for is direct observation of what your structures look like. To me, this is on par with listening to beautiful music or looking at priceless works of art. I’m filled with awe and it always renews my desire to not destroy the gift I’ve been given. If you get a chance, visit a human anatomy exhibit. Or just take my word for it: be kind to your parts.
Lift weights, eat right, and sleep well. ‘Nuf said.
Now, some culprits.
Airline travel. A great way to rip out a rotator cuff is by lifting a carryon bag into the overhead compartment of an airplane. Often, we are distracted and in a rush, and not thinking about form at all. When the time comes to lift the bag, take a moment to think about the best way to do it. The best way to do it, might be asking someone else to do it for you.
A happy, floppy, large-breed puppy. I’ve seen time and again. Grandpa dies, so the well-meaning kids buy Grandma a large-breed puppy to cheer her up and keep her company. The puppy becomes an adolescent and either knocks or drags Grandma over, causing injury ranging from mild to severe. My plea to those with good intentions; if you get a dog for an elderly person, get a small breed.
Jogging/long distance running. The single fastest way to destroy your knees. If you are addicted to running, allow me to introduce you to jogging’s hotter sister, sprinting. Sprinting is far gentler on your joints, and far better for you. Personally, I’d rather look like Usain Bolt than one of those animated-skeleton-marathon runners.
Hot Yoga. In all my years of practice, I’ve never once had a patient present with an injury caused by room-temperature Yoga. I do however, see at least two ‘hot-Yoga’ causalities per year. Most common are low back ligament tears or hamstring tears. In every case, these patients didn’t even realize they had been injured until after they cooled down. I’m not saying hot-Yoga is bad, I’m just asking you to listen to your body, go slow, and don’t be bullied by aggressive instructors.
Anger. Many injures occur when we are distracted, and being angry takes us out of the kinesthetic moment. From crashing your car, to kicking a wall, to turning your body to walk away without first lifting your foot, I’ve heard countless tales of a moment of anger being responsible for a broken bone or torn ligament. When angered, realize that you are in danger.
Crossfit: I’m not going to launch into the debate, but I will say that I get at least four Crossfit casualties per year. The two biggest culprits are blowing discs while box-jumping (jumping down, specifically), and tearing hamstrings while deadlifting with elevated heart and respiratory rates. Here are some simple solutions. Don’t jump down, step down. The benefit of box-jumping comes from the explosive movement of jumping up, while jumping down does not offer any benefit. Deadlifting is the king of exercise; so treat it with respect. It offers the biggest gains, but done incorrectly, so can it taketh away.