As the snow slowly melts and temperatures start to rise all of us have begun to think about returning to outdoor activities. Due to the harsh weather of the winter months, most of us have become sedentary and have not had much exercise. During this time, generalized deconditioning, reduced flexibility, and weakness may have developed resulting in an increased risk for injury upon returning to your activity of choice.
Keeping these things in mind, here are a few tips to keep you safe as you return to activity this spring.
- Perform your home exercise program. We have all had some type of physical injury at one point or another that required the performance of a specific group of exercises or stretches to improve that condition. To prevent the return of a previously experienced condition, compliance with maintenance exercises is vital. It is no different than brushing your teeth everyday to keep up with your dental hygiene. So if you have been instructed in a home exercise program and have become lazy or forgetful about performing it over the winter, then it’s time to get back to work!! If you have lost your home exercise program or you are not sure about what you should be doing, feel free to contact me for guidance. Getting your body tuned up and back into shape before returning to outdoor activity will help prevent injury recurrence and allow you to have a more enjoyable and pain free spring.
- Take it slow. One of the biggest problems I encounter with patients who are returning to activity, is too rapid of a return after a period of being sedentary. This will often result in a flare up of a previously experienced orthopedic condition or the onset of a new pathology. So my advice is to take it slow. Return gradually to whatever activity you choose. For example, if you were previously walking 2 miles in the fall and were inactive during the winter months, start off by walking only a quarter mile. If you have no adverse reaction to this level of activity, then gradually progress to a half mile and then to a full mile over the course of a week or two. This will allow your body time to adjust to each level of activity minimizing the chance of a flare up.
- Listen to your body. Upon return to activity, mild soreness will most likely occur in your muscles and possibly in your joints. Some people may become more sore than others depending on if they were compliant with tips 1 and 2 listed above. In any case, listen to your body. Let your body tell you how aggressive you can be. Soreness that persists for longer than 48 to 72 hours is your body’s way of letting you know to back off. Rest…… and upon resuming activity, you may need to scale things down until your body is better conditioned to tolerate the load.
- Use Ice. If you flare yourself up due to a rapid return to activity, the best thing you can do is apply ice. These types of conditions are inflammatory in nature and will respond best to rest and the application of ice for 10-15 minutes at a time. A cold pack, a bag of frozen peas, or good old fashioned ice cubes in a plastic bag will do the trick. Application 2 to 3 times per day for a period of 5-7 days should be sufficient at reducing pain and inflammation of the injured area. Once your symptoms subside, you can gradually return to activity as listed previously in this article.
- Call your physical therapist. If your symptoms persist and do not seem to be getting better after 1-2 weeks, it’s time to call your physical therapist. Don’t wait too long though!!! The longer you wait, the more chronic your condition may become. Getting help promptly will allow for a speedier recovery and place you in a better position to return to the activities you enjoy.
Good Luck….And be Safe
For more information on how to successfully return to activity, contact Physical Solutions.