The snow is melting, sun shining and birds chirping. You slowly get the itch to dust off those running shoes, golf clubs or tennis racket and get back to your game. As you should! Being active has so many benefits to our overall health, we should all be eager to enjoy activity year-round.
This being said, we cannot just jump right back into where we left off if we haven’t been doing anything, or at least the given activity for a few months. If you have not swung a golf club in 4 months, don’t go to the range on day one and hit 4 large buckets of balls. If you haven’t run outside in 4 months, don’t lace up and run 10 miles (even if you have been running indoors on a treadmill; it’s different).
Once you get back in the groove, the next step is avoiding overuse injuries. Again – this is not meant to scare anyone away from being active, but to help you avoid these common spring time overuse injuries.
With most spring sports, running and twisting are involved to some extent. The human body is an amazing thing that is meant to do these movements. Over time if you don’t continue doing these things, your body will fight back when you try.
The most common spring time injuries I see are – low back pain, knee pain, and foot pain – and here is how to avoid them so you don’t have to spend time on the bench.
Low Back Pain
Often caused by overexertion, bending under too much load, or moving out of normal range of motion – low back pain can be avoided by strengthening and stretching the muscles around your low back. Help reinforce your posture by strengthening your core and glutes with exercises like planks, farmer carries, glute bridges, lunges and squats.
Stretching your hip flexor muscles/psoas muscles will help with posture, helping you to avoid setting yourself up in a poor position to begin with.
From here, making sure that you are sitting with good posture, and not spending too much time sitting overall will help reinforce your newfound strength and mobility. If you find yourself slouching too much, having an external reinforcement can help – like Mueller’s Adjustable Posture Support.
Knee pain is a very general issue, so the first rule is to rest. If rest doesn’t improve the pain, it’s time to go and see your local sports med doc or PT. To avoid knee pain, the principles are the same as for the low back.
Strengthen the muscles around the knee – your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Focusing on proper form and loading during your workouts is key. One area that we often don’t hear about is ankle mobility.
The ankle is a very mobile joint, while the knee is meant to be stable. When the ankle is tight, the knee is “forced” to take on more mobility than it is supposed to. Working on calf stretching and ankle dorsiflexion is key to maximize ankle mobility.
Also, make sure you are wearing proper athletic shoes for your sport and your foot. The best way to figure this out is to find a local running store that will take time to analyze your walking gait, your arch pressure, and your ankle angles when your foot strikes the ground.
If you have a minor knee injury that keeps nagging you during your training sessions, invest in a quality soft knee brace to help provide extra stability while you focus on improving your strength and mobility.
Highly related to knee pain, foot pain can be a major buzzkill when it comes to your springtime activities. Plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the issue on the arch of the foot, is the most common. Making sure that you have those proper fitting shoes as mentioned above, and if need be, proper arch inserts.
To train for foot health, you will want to focus on ankle mobility, and calf stretching – but also a lesser-known mobile joint, the big toe. Yes, your big toe. Big toe stretches while barefoot are the simplest thing you can do to strengthen your tissue in and around your foot.
Also, make sure you are ramping up your running properly. Don’t try to go from 0 to 10 miles in one week. Be conservative, and if you have an event coming up, make sure that you give yourself enough time to prepare. Give yourself extra support as you train with PFTape® or EasyFit® Kinesiology Tape Pre-Cut Arch.
Springtime is always the beginning of an amazing season to be outdoors and active, especially if you have been cooped-up inside for months. The last thing you want to do is get hurt and miss out on your activities that you love. Be active, but also be smart and listen to your body – then get out there and enjoy it!