A few years ago I suffered from a muscle spasm after a shoulder workout. The spasm was yanking on my discs and throwing me all out of whack. Since I was leaving on vacation the following day, I immediately went running to Dr. Chris Stepanek at Total Health of Vero Beach for help. This was my first encounter with a Chiropractor and I was impressed to say the least.
I loved that he not only treated my discs but also worked on my actual spasm that was causing my discs to jump out of place. I continued with ice and anti-inflammatories, but it took weeks for me to recover.
When it came time to do shoulders again, it was only natural for me to be a little scared of re-injury. Fear is a natural response, but I knew that if I didn’t stay active I’d only face more problems down the road.
Since injuries tend to be a good excuse to avoid exercise, I asked Dr. Stepanek to share some tips to help people get back in the saddle and prevent future injury. The following advise may surprise you.
1. Keep moving. Don’t avoid the motion that caused the injury to begin with. “If you threw your back out doing squats, the first reaction is to avoid doing squats again” explains Dr. Stepanek. He warns avoiding the same motion that created the problem can only cause more problems down the road.
Many back injuries are due to weak or tight muscles. Avoiding exercises that would strengthen and stretch the area allows your body to become weaker, compounding the problem and making the patient even more fragile. Instead, Dr. Stepanek encourages patients to repeat the same motion that caused the injury at the earliest possible moment.
2. Let joints heal. Although you should get back into motion as soon as you can when it comes to muscle related injuries, injured joints are a different story. Dr. Stepanek says people should avoid strengthening muscles around injured joints too early in the healing process. The joint must be fully functional before you can begin strengthening muscles around it.
This is very difficult for impatient people on a quest to get fit, but it’s best to heal from a minor injury than to ignore it and cause more damage.
3. Ice is best. While bed rest and heat sounds a lot more appealing than applying a Ziploc bag of crushed ice to the middle of your bare back, ice is always a safe bet. A heating pad is not something you will find at Dr. Stepanek’s office, as heat causes an inflammatory response.
4. Get strong. Even though disc related low back pain is the number one condition treated at Total Health, Dr. Stepanek says it can be prevented and improved. Strengthening the core muscles splints the spine, giving the back more protection and support. Abdominal exercises are very beneficial as well as stretching exercises for the back, hamstrings and hip flexors.
If you have been using pain, or fear of injury, as an excuse to stay out of the gym, it’s time to look for another excuse. Dr. Stepanek says, “ It’s your future, be there healthy.”
Total Health of Vero Beach welcomes walk-ins. Call 778-BACK for more information.