An Ounce of Prevention . . .
. . . is worth a pound of cure, so the saying goes. Unfortunately, we live in a very reactive society when it comes to our health. Even in CrossFit, where I practice and where people are heavily invested in their own health and wellness, I see numerous injuries that could have been easily avoided. I consider injury prevention one of my top priorities as a therapist. As such, this week I want to look at three simple, yet effective ways to avoid being side-lined by an injury.
Emphasize technique over intensity
Lifting heavy things is fun. Running faster and jumping higher is fun. The high felt after doing something you were not able to do before is intoxicating and addictive. Ask anyone who has just rung the PR bell in the midst of a group of 20 like-minded people clapping and cheering them on. However, when this comes at the cost of technique, you are putting yourself at great risk. Many of you are thinking “Duh, of course”, but when was the last time you really thought about foundational movements, such as your air squat?
Everything we do in the gym/box, on the field, or in life in general, is built on a basic foundation of fundamental movements. In CrossFit, we emphasize these basic movement patterns early on, but they often lose ground to more “exciting” movements and “accessory” work. However, injuries and errors in basic movement patterns go hand-in-hand. No amount of more advanced exercises or accessory work will stop a faulty basic movement pattern from leading you to an injury. Instead, refine your basic movement patterns and then work to increase intensity.
Listen to your body
Pain is your brain's way of understanding that something is wrong. Pain does not necessarily mean that you are injured . . . yet. In fact, we frequently experience pain as an early warning sign before a true injury occurs. Pain often indicates that a faulty movement pattern is placing unusual stress on your body. Left unchecked, this stress may lead to an injury; however, listening to this advanced warning and taking appropriate action may allow you to avoid a more significant issue. Unfortunately, many of us will choose to ignore pain, waiting as long as possible to seek help. Perhaps this behaviour is the product of involvement in sports that reward or revere athletes for playing through pain, or perhaps we are afraid to admit that something may be wrong. Either way, breaking this cycle can help you avoid injuries.
Distinguish between the discomfort of intense activity and the pain of abnormal tissue stress. DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is muscular pain/soreness that occurs within the hours and days following intense exercise and is considered a normal side effect of this type of activity. Pain during a movement, on the other hand, should be considered abnormal. If this occurs, determine the source of the pain and correct it asap. Do not continue to push through the pain, as this could lead to an injury.
Put it all together and seek help BEFORE it’s too late
Imagine you’re driving your car and you start hearing loud noises coming from the engine. What would you do? Shrug your shoulders, say “oh well, hopefully that will stop” and try to ignore it? Or would you take it in to your mechanic to have it looked at? For some reason, when it comes to our own bodies, many of us take the former option and try our very best to ignore the symptoms.
Instead, why not ask you coach to assess your technique? Or ask your Chiro/Physio/RMT to assess your movement or have a look at that painful muscle? These people want to keep you pain and injury free. They are a valuable resource; don’t let them go to waste. A few minutes spent on prevention may save you weeks or months of rehabilitation, and that is a worthwhile investment.
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