Austin, Texas is home to some of the best outdoor activities in the country. We host a wide array of sports events that many people can enjoy year-round from team recreational leagues like pickleball, volleyball, or basketball, to outdoor activities like hiking, golf or wake surfing. No matter what your sport or activity of choice is in Austin, it is important to note that physical activity is highly important for overall health.
From a chiropractor’s lens and considering brain and spinal health, it is important to get daily movement. It is also important to note that chiropractic plays a big role in the prevention of abnormal soreness, pain, and tightness as well as in maintaining an active, mobile body. This will also lead to better performance and injury prevention which we will discuss in this article.
Common Injuries Associated With Activity
Whether playing in a new pickleball league or just going for a hike around the Green Belt, we know that injuries are unfortunately a part of life. They happen to all of us at some point. How we deal with those injuries can greatly impact the healing time and long-term health of our body.
Some of the most common injuries associated with being active include:
- Sprain/strain injuries
- Disk herniations
- Hamstring injuries
- Rotator Cuff injuries
- Knee Injuries
- Elbow Injuries
- Foot and ankle injuries
Once these injuries occur, it is important to take early action by seeking help from an experienced sports chiropractor who is trained in the diagnosis and management of these conditions. After an injury like this, ligaments take about a year to fully heal. Under the right treatment plan and home exercises, these injuries can heal correctly, decreasing the likelihood of future injuries or pain. Putting off treatment typically results in more frequent pain flare-ups, and recurring injuries in the future.
Tips for Staying Injury Free
The best place to start with injuries is prevention. A proactive approach has been shown to save time and money in the long run even though it does take consistent work. We are going to list a few of the most useful ways to prevent injury.
Early Detection to Prevent Injury
A valuable piece of injury prevention is the early detection of signs and symptoms. Before we get into things that you can do to prevent injury, we think it’s important to note key signs to watch for that can alert us that a future injury is at a higher risk.
Some key things that are common but not normal, and signal a problem include:
- Tight muscles that feel like they need to be stretched regularly
- Feeling uncomfortable in certain postural positions for long periods of time like sitting at a desk and feeling low back or hip soreness after an extended period
- Feeling the need to pop your back or neck regularly to release the pressure in an area
- Numbness or tingling in an area (or the feeling of something falling asleep)
If any of these things are present, it is important to see a chiropractor for an examination to find the cause of the problem, so that a plan to address the imbalances can be made. This will help prevent most, if not all of the injuries named above.
Other than early detection here are a few ways to improve athletic performance and also prevent injury.
Balance Strength and Mobility for Injury Prevention
One of the most important strategies to stay injury-free is to create a balance of strength and mobility. Commonly, through chiropractic exams, we find that people who are already very flexible prefer to only train flexibility. An example of this would be a yoga teacher only doing yoga for activity. An opposing example would be a weightlifter only lifting weights. Ideally, we would blend both to create a balance of strength and flexibility. This will lead to more stability in the body and better performance.
If you are not sure where to start, we have made a free back pain guide that includes some of our favorite stretches and exercises which will help.
Getting the “Right Amount” of Movement
Most of us already know that daily movement is key, but what we typically don’t hear is that the right amount of movement is key. As they say in health, the dose is the poison. Too much movement without enough rest can cause an increased risk of injury, and the same is true with not enough movement.
What we see most commonly at Lifespring Chiropractic and in the Austin sports community is that daily movement typically consists of a gym workout or a sports league for about an hour. Then most of the day is spent on the computer at work, sitting for 6 to 8+ hours.
If we think of these competing forces like a balance scale, we can see that the amount of time spent sitting significantly outweighs the amount of time spent moving.
Our focus here should be to “tip the scale back” the other way. This can be done by taking periodic breaks throughout the day, typically every 30 minutes to every hour. These breaks can be as short as 2 minutes to do some home exercises from our pain elimination guide or go walk back and forth down the hallway. Setting daily step goals can be a great way to track progress. This will help muscles, tendons, and ligaments to stay healthy and mobile in the body, which translates to less risk for injury.
Can Chiropractors Prevent Injury?
Seeing a chiropractor regularly has been shown to help prevent injury by improving range of motion and overall mobility, among other things. At Lifespring Chiropractic, one of the things that makes us different from many other chiropractors is that we focus on the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves (the nervous system) and their relationship to the joints and muscles of the body.
This system, called the nervous system, is the master control center of the body that coordinates all of our daily functions including mobility, range of motion, and pain. It also controls things like coordination, balance, posture, and reaction time.
All of these factors contribute to less injury over time and also have a big impact on sports performance. Some of the latest chiropractic research on this topic is about how chiropractic affects our somatosensory input (signalling into the brain) and its effect on our proprioception (body awareness), and quality of movement.
At Lifespring Chiropractic, we blend this lens with a focus on extremities, making sure that all of our extremity areas are moving correctly. Some of the most common extremity chiropractic work we perform is foot and ankle chiropractic. The foot and ankle is like our shock absorber. If we have any misalignments or abnormal motion in these areas, it is like having poor shocks in a car.
Imagine taking a car with poor shocks off-roading. We would see significant damage to the body of the car. The same is true with a problem with the foot and somebody playing sports on it. When we run or jump we are putting 3-7 times the amount of force into our body. Without the foot working correctly, this will lead to knee, hip, and lower back problems. This example also happens to be a common cause of low back disc herniations that happened without any “injury.”
Finding these imbalances and addressing them through chiropractic adjustments before they become painful is important for injury prevention.
How Do I Know When I Need to See a Chiropractor?
Oftentimes we wonder when we should seek help from a chiropractor if we are symptom-free. The best answer when it comes to health is to see a professional before symptoms occur and to be proactive.
Imagine only seeing a dentist if we have tooth pain. Or only doing a workout to try to lose weight. Or any eating healthy once we have a heart attack. These are all reactive solutions and could have been prevented with early detection and proper lifestyle changes at home. Not to mention these reactive solutions cost many times more than a proactive solution and take much more time to resolve.
The same concept is true when it comes to the health of our spine and nervous system. We can prevent injury and pain through the right home habits and exercises mentioned above, along with utilizing chiropractic adjustments as maintenance care before pain or injuries occur.