Weekend Warrior Safety Tips
It’s springtime once again!  All you can think about is getting outside in the garden, remodeling around the house, or getting back into your sports or workout routine.  While these are all very normal responses to the nice weather, there are some things you need to know to stay safe.

What is a Weekend Warrior? A weekend warrior is 1) A person who participates in a physically strenuous activity only on weekends or part-time, or 2) A homeowner who acts as a contractor and tries to do major improvement projects on weekends (often without understanding the scope of the work to be done).

Either way, both of these situations could lead to injuries and put you on the bench for a long time.

I want to go over some tips to help you prevent injuries, let you know what to do in case there is an injury, and go over some circumstances when a chiropractor should be seen to help with your injuries.

It’s very important to prepare yourself for any physical activity, but it is especially important if you have been sedate all winter.  Pulled muscles, cramps, serious sports injuries, and heart attacks can all happen if you work out too hard, too soon, and too infrequently.

Here are some safety tips for avoiding injury:

1. Consult your chiropractor or doctor before starting any exercise program.
Make sure that you give your chiropractor a complete history of muscle or skeletal injuries and any other sports-related medical issues. Your chiropractor also needs to know about your family history, your own medical history and, in particular, any risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. Your chiropractor may give you a specific exercise prescription, so be sure to follow it.

2. Take it slow.

  • If your chiropractor gives you the OK to start exercising and has no specific prescription, start exercising by stretching and walking for at least five to seven minutes to allow your body to warm up and increase the blood flow to muscles and joints.
  • Slowly increase either the length of time or the intensity of your workouts. A good rule of thumb is to increase time and intensity no more than 5 to 7 percent every four weeks.

You’re likely excited to get back into the habit of exercise. But if your body has been inactive for a while, running 5 miles, for example, is going to be a shock to your system. Too much exercise too soon can be harmful. Ease into your workouts and begin slowly. Consider a program in which you walk and gradually integrate small segments of slow jogging into your walks.

3. Warm up, then stretch.

  • Take a brisk walk or do some other aerobic activity for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stretch your muscles after you’ve warmed up.
  • Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, NEVER BOUNCE and remember to breathe during each stretch.
  • When stretching one muscle group, be sure to contract the opposing muscle group to get the best stretch possible.  For example, if you are stretching your hamstrings, make sure to contract your quads.
  • Perform your aerobic workout, then stretch again as part of your cooldown.

Stretching will improve performance and help prevent injury. Never bounce when you stretch, as this can cause injury. Consult a chiropractor or certified personal trainer for a stretching routine that meets your particular health status and goals.

4. Exercise during the week.

  • Stretch and do some aerobic activity every other day.
  • A little bit can go a long way. Performing short but correct workouts during the week will likely make your weekend workouts more enjoyable and productive.

The American Heart Association recommends regular exercise on most days of the week. So if you tend to work out only on the weekends, you might want to consider also being active between Tuesdays and Thursdays. This would allow you enough rest before your weekend workouts. The best way to accomplish this is by scheduling times for exercise before your week begins and protecting this time whenever possible.

5. Rest.                                                                                                                                                                     It is important to give your body a break and a chance to heal itself. Especially for people age 30 and older, it’s important to take a break every other day from activities such as running. This allows your joints and muscles to fully recover.

6. Mix it up — cross-train.
Participate in more than one type of sport or activity. Studies show that people who cross-train tend to have fewer injuries than people who focus on only one activity.

7. Pay attention to your form.
Learn proper form from a certified personal trainer. Injuries can happen when you use the wrong form. For example, tennis players sometimes develop tennis elbow when they hit the ball wrong or too hard.

8. Listen to your body.
If your muscles become sore, pay attention to how the soreness feels and how long it lasts. If your pain continues more than a few hours after your workout, you’ll want to remember the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. It’s normal to be sore when you first start exercising again. But if the soreness doesn’t go away, or even worsens, consider seeking medical attention.

9. Stay hydrated.
Be sure you are well-hydrated and replace the fluids that you’ve lost during exercise. Don’t forget that some foods, like watermelon and soups, are good sources of fluid.

10. Consider taking a multivitamin or mineral supplement.
Consult your doctor to determine what may be best for you. Vitamin D has been shown to improve athletic performance, enhance the healing process, fight inflammation, and decrease muscle and joint pain. Don’t forget the importance of adequate calcium intake for strong bones.

11. Proper equipment.                                                                                                                                  Make sure your shoes are well cushioned and have adequate support.


Pull Weeds, Not Your Back!

It’s also important to protect yourself from injuries while in the garden as well.  According to the National Gardening Association, 2 out of 3 American households take  part in some gardening activity each year.  This could be anything from raking leaves, transplanting trees and shrubs, planting spring-flowering bulbs and perennials, removing dead branches from trees, controlling troublesome weeds, and lawn mowing.  While doing any of these activities, it is important to keep these safety issues in mind:

1. Avoid overexposure to the sun.  Sunlight is actually very good for you, but too much of it for long periods of time can dehydrate you. If you are doing strenuous outdoor work, try to do it during the cooler times of the day. Make sure you don’t get over-exhausted, so take breaks and load up on the fluids.

2. Warm up.  It is important to prepare the body before you jump into a huge task, especially when it is something that you only do once or twice a year.  Make sure to stretch upper body and shoulder muscles before you do a lot of repetitive work.

3. Prevent low back sprains and strains.  These days, it’s more than just lifting with your legs and not your back. You need to bend at your knees and hips, and keep heavy objects as close to your body as possible when lifting.  Lifting with outstretched arms can strain back muscles as well because your center of gravity is not balanced.  Keep your back erect when working at ground level and when using long-handled tools.  Sit on a garden stool whenever possible.


How do low back injuries occur?

Low back injuries occur when the external load or force is greater than the strength of the tissues in the back, such as bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and discs.  Many things can cause a failure of the tissues to respond to the force applied to it.  Often times, repetitive motion can break down microfibers in the tissues and make them inherently weaker over time.  Changes in disc pressure can also lead to injuries.  When you lay on your back, the pressure in the disc spaces is not that great.  When you stand, it increases some, then sitting increases it more, and it is the strongest when you bend over.  You have probably heard someone say “I just bent over to pick up a pencil and I felt my back go out”.  Well, there is no way that the weight of the pencil made their back go out.  It was probably due to a combination of the microtraumas from repeatedly bending wrong, and the increase in pressure in the discs from bending forward.  And to that a twisting motion while you are already in a bent position, and you’ve got yourself a low back injury!

Certain times of the day are also more vulnerable for your back.  Disc bending stresses are increased by 300% and ligaments by 80% in the morning and after sitting for prolonged periods of time.   If you need to do any bending or lifting during these times, it is especially important to warm your back up.

A lot of times, back injuries aren’t just caused by weak back muscles, but also by weak abdominal muscles, and other deep muscles that help with rotation.  All your core muscles need to be balanced, and work together to move your body.  Many body builders have the problem of over-working their abdominals, and not working their low back muscles enough.  Their core is totally out of balance and they can easily throw their back out.  It is important to include spinal stabilization and abdominal strengthening exercises in your routine.

It is important to condition tissues in the low back before you start any type of physical activity, whether it is gardening or exercising.  Conditioning includes stretching, balanced strengthening, adequate rest and using forces that are not excessive.


Ways to warm up the low back

Limbering is not really stretching, but more of a movement to warm things up and get fluids pumping in the area.  The cat/cow exercise is great for this.

Remember to always focus on your neutral posture.  This is where your core should be all the time.  You shouldn’t be slouching, leaning forward or arching your back when you are standing.  It should be nice and relaxed, feeling like you are drawing your abdominals toward your back and keeping your stomach tucked in.  You should be concentrating on this while you are sitting too.

Abdominal crunches on a physioball, side bridges and the hands and knees leg raise can all help strengthen your core muscles

What if I get injured?

Even if you do everything you are supposed to, there is still a chance you might get injured.  Knowing what to do when this happens could save you from hurting yourself even more.

  1.    If it is life threatening, or you feel like something is broken, get to an emergency room ASAP!  Let the staff know what exactly you were doing when you got injured.  This will save time and it may give them some extra information to help treat your injury the best.
  2.     If you don’t suspect a fracture, but you cannot move a limb, or you could move it but it would be extremely painful, or if you feel nauseous, you should also get to a medical facility, as you may have a severe tear of a ligament or tendon.
  3.      If you are in pain, but you can move the injured area fairly well and can tolerate some pressure, you can go to a chiropractor or a medical facility.  At the chiropractor’s office, the doctor will do a history and exam of the area and then decide if x-rays should be taken.  They will decide if it looks like an injury (subluxation) that can be treated at their office.  They may or may not include PT with your treatment plan, such as muscle stimulation or ultrasound.
  4.      If you feel like you “tweaked” something, but it is not too painful, you should still get to a chiropractor for an evaluation.  It is important to get smaller injuries corrected before they become big problems.  Any misalignment of the bones can lead to postural changes and muscle imbalance.  This sets you up for more injuries in the future.

Ice or Heat?

As a general rule of thumb, any new injury should have ICE and not heat.  Heat will make an area more inflamed, and your goal after an injury is to decrease swelling and inflammation to decrease pain and speed healing.  You can’t really do damage to an area if you ice it when you are not supposed (exceptions: DM, conditions where there is decreased sensitivity in the skin, history of hypothermia or frostbite) but you can cause damage if you use heat when you are not supposed to.  In any case, you should still be evaluated by a chiropractor so that the misalignments can be adjusted, and he or she will tell you if you should use ice or heat.