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MICROBREAKS - Saving muscles from overuse

8 July 2018

Muscular pain is one of the most common pathologies of today's society. Muscle pain occurs as joints degenerate over time and become arthritic. It is associated with nearly every musculoskeletal injury and is responsible for most of the dull and achy pains felt throughout the body that "happen for no reason". With a steady rise in desk jobs, time spent on devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.), we are seeing more and more patients with muscle related pain in physical therapy. Even doing household chores like vacuuming, folding laundry, hanging clothes, and unloading groceries from your car can create muscle pain. Although there are many things that happen in life that cannot be controlled, there is still much that can be done to minimize and prevent muscle pain due to overuse injuries, posture, and repetitive movements.

When working at a desk or computer for extended periods of time there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from postural and repetitive strain on your muscles. Ensure your work station is set up ergonomically with the top of your monitor at eye level. Keep things you use frequently closer to you on the desk. Have your mouse and keyboard positioned at elbow height.  Find a chair that allows you to sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground and good lumbar support. The most important thing, however, is to not stay in any one position for too long. Set a 20 minute timer on your computer, mobile device, or use a kitchen timer, and when the alarm sounds stand up and stretch out or walk around for 1-2 minutes. This "microbreak" will allow your muscles that have been working to rest, your vascular system to bring fresh oxygen while taking away lactic acid build-up, and restore your posture before it inevitably falls into "bad posture".

Microbreaks can be used in any situation. There is research that shows more than 20 minutes of any repetitive activity can cause myofascial restriction, called trigger points, to form in the part of muscles that contract. Accumulations of trigger points and restrictions in the muscular and fascia system are what can contribute to muscle pain over a period of time. So, no matter what kind of work you are doing, if it is repetitive, remember to take microbreaks every 20-30 minutes to allow your muscles to rest and not be overworked

Dr. Jonathan Cole, DPT, CMTPT

Sports Injury Prevention

2 April 2018

Every afternoon I cover athletic programs for a local high school with the main purpose being injury prevention. Coaches, athletes and especially parents benefit from having access to information that can keep their kids healthy, safe and on the field having fun. Unfortunately for young athletes, injuries are bound to happen, at least that’s what the statistics tell us. For the sake of trying to curve the statistics and keep kids playing the sports they love, let’s go over some tips for preventing injuries before they happen.

Nutrition is a huge factor in preventing injures. Food is the fuel your body runs on so when an athlete trains or competes, it is important they have the adequate nutrition they need to replenish their body. If a portion of the diet is lacking and the body needs to pull from stored substances, the athlete could be more susceptible to certain injuries. A balanced diet with natural carbs, proteins, and fats (no trans-fats) goes a long way. Adding in a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement can help ensure the essential nutrients for an active lifestyle are available. Finally, stay hydrated! A one-to-one ratio of water to sports drinks (Gatorade) is good for high level and long duration sports. For less intense activities drinking water is just fine. Having a balanced diet can help prevent stress fractures, heat illness and many other prevalent injuries.

It’s awesome that there are so many ways for kids to play the sports they love these days. Kids can play for high school teams or summer leagues or even travel teams, and because of these, many sports are no longer seasonal. What that means is there is no off-season for rest, only a continuous cycle from one team to the next. A lot of you probably just read that last sentence and thought, “wow, that’s a lot” and you’re right. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, specializing in one sport without any significant rest can lead to increased rates of over-use types of injuries (think ligament sprains and tendonitis). The best thing to do is to not specialize. Different sports focus on different skills and parts of the body, this gives the body an opportunity to rest and recuperate from the stresses of the previous sport. If that doesn’t convince you, here is a bonus incentive for avoiding sport specialization: most professional athletes, in any league, played multiple sports in high school and many report that playing multiple sports helped them perform better in their primary sport (think Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, Deion Sanders, and many more).

Finally, sleep plays a huge role in both physical and mental health. Individuals operating on 2 hours of sleep less than their regular amount showed slowed response times like that of individuals just over the legal threshold for intoxication. If we equate this to sports such as soccer or softball, one can see how decreased reaction time increases the likelihood of injury. As well, adolescents tend to require more sleep than the average adult, who sleeps 6 to 8 hours a night. If a teenager is getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night they are doing pretty good. A tip for the best sleeping conditions are to have an environment that is cool, dark, and comfortable. Remember caffeine is a stimulant, so try to stay away from soda, coffee, and tea after about 3 pm or there may be some trouble falling asleep.

These tips certainly won’t prevent all injuries from occurring, but they are a good place to start. If you know someone who could benefit from reading this post, please pass it along!

Sports Injury Prevention

Kevin Thomas, ATC, SCAT


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