Let’s be honest: injuries are anything but fun. Think of the last time you rolled an ankle or pulled your hamstring doing one too many deadlifts. Being couch-ridden with a bag of frozen peas and a bottle of Rub A535 can put a downright damper on anyone’s mood.
“No one likes to be injured, have pain, or not be able to do something they love,” says Alex Chow, a Physiotherapist at HealthOne. We’re so quick to react when an injury happens, but why don’t we think more about preventing them in the first place?
Understanding the smartest ways to exercise can help you live a long, healthy life with minimal bumps along the road. We sat down with Alex to learn his top tips for injury prevention that you can apply in your own life.
Add variety to your routine.
Spin class, HIIT training, pilates, beach volleyball… there’s no shortage of ways to get moving and break a sweat! That’s why our first tip for preventing injury is to add variety to your routine.
It can be easy to have a one-track mind with exercise, especially if you’ve discovered something that you truly love to do. Someone who loves running might only run 5 times a week, for example, or a yogi might only practice yoga. According to Alex, this is something you should avoid.
“Having a lack of variety makes someone more susceptible to a potential overuse injury,” he explains. When you put your body through the same form of physical activity over and over again, it repeatedly puts the same type of stress on your body.
Instead, a seasoned runner could switch from 5 runs a week to running on Monday and Friday, strength training on Wednesday, and a yoga session on Sunday. This would reduce their chance of an overuse injury while keeping their bodies (and minds) more entertained!
Try some new forms of exercise, and most importantly, have fun with it – variety is the spice of life!
Take rest days.
The time you spend recovering is just as important as the time you spend doing exercise. Alex’s second tip for preventing injury is to make sure that you take your rest days.
“Rest days are important because they give your body a chance to recover,” he says. “So, for a runner, instead of running every day they could do Monday, Wednesday, Friday so there’s a day of rest in-between.”
Rest days are especially important if you have loftier exercise goals, like running a marathon or even your first 10k. “Slow and steady progress over the long term is much better than trying to do too much too soon,” he adds.
Make sure to hydrate and fuel up on nutritious food, just like you would on the days that you exercise! You’ll feel ready to hit a new personal best after a well-deserved break.
Check your form.
The way you move your body can either make or break your routine. If you exercise with incorrect form, you have a higher chance of developing an injury.
“If your form isn’t ideal, you could be stressing the wrong areas of your body – for example, your ligaments, tendons, or joints – instead of the muscles that support the joint,” says Alex.
There are lots of great resources online where you can learn about proper form. You can also visit a Rehab professional like Alex who specializes in Functional Mobility Assessments. An FMA is an assessment used to evaluate your mobility and flexibility while giving you recommendations on the areas you could improve.
“During an assessment, I look for inefficiencies,” he explains. “If someone’s doing a squat and their knee starts to cave in, there might not be any discomfort initially. But when they start to squat more or add weight and do it for an extended period of time, it could lead to an injury.”
Having good form is something a physiotherapist can help you learn more about during an appointment. It’s not just important for building strength – your form matters no matter what kind of exercise you do! Take the time to learn the ropes before you jump into a new routine. Your muscles, ligaments and joints will thank you.
Visit your healthcare team.
A physiotherapist like Alex can help you learn more about your body, reach your exercise goals, prevent injuries, and recover from them. But there are a lot of other factors that can contribute to your chance of injury – like the quality of sleep that you’re getting at night.
“It’s well researched that there’s a higher occurrence of injury when sleep is impaired,” Alex explains. “When you’re not well-rested and you’re more fatigued, the chance of you injuring something is much higher.”
Improving your sleep hygiene can also help you perform better during exercise – which, if you’re reading this blog, is likely something you’re interested in!
This is where the value of visiting a multidisciplinary healthcare team comes into play. Visiting another practitioner, like a Naturopathic Doctor, can provide a unique lens to help you prevent injuries.
“Naturopaths are very good at focusing on how your stress is, your diet, and how your sleep is. All those factors can influence if you get an injury as well. A multidisciplinary approach can help you tackle things from multiple angles,” he says.
The list of practitioners who can help you doesn’t stop there. Visiting your family doctor, other rehab professionals, or even a registered dietitian can help you understand your body and accomplish your goals. Visiting an all-in-one clinic like HealthOne in Toronto can give you easy access to eight departments in one convenient location.
Final thoughts from our Physiotherapist
Injury prevention is an important topic that everyone should learn about. But the reality is, injuries can still happen no matter how prepared you are. Even sitting at a desk too long or bending over to pick up a pencil can cause a sudden, acute injury that leaves your body in pain.
If this does happen to you, Alex’s best advice is don’t wait! The longer you procrastinate seeing a professional, the higher your chances are of that injury becoming worse.
“Sooner is always better,” he emphasizes. “Even if you rolled your ankle today, the best time to see a physio would be right when it happens. The quicker you get it diagnosed and started on a treatment plan, the more likely it is that you’ll recover faster and with fewer complications.”
Some people worry that their injury isn’t “bad enough” to visit a professional, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Remember, pain is your body’s warning signal that something is wrong. Ignoring an injury can also turn it into something chronic that gets worse months – even years – down the road.
In many cases, ignoring an injury can even cause it to develop into other areas of the body. That rolled ankle could manifest into knee, hip or back pain, which could require even more intensive treatment. “That’s why I always stress the importance of getting your injuries diagnosed by a professional because you don’t want to delay the recovery, but you also don’t want it to cause a future injury in another area,” Alex concludes.
Preventing injuries starts with education, and that’s one of Alex’s primary goals as a practitioner at HealthOne. If you need physiotherapy in Toronto, our clinic offers virtual services where you can meet with Alex and learn more about the ways you can move better while decreasing pain. We hope these tips help you hit a new personal best and avoid injury from developing in the first place!
One Life. Live Inspired.