Prevent injuries before they occur

Janet Cranston
Fit for Life

Over coffee the other day, a friend and I were discussing out desire to continue our active lifestyles as we age and avoid injuries at the same time. My friend is a tennis player and no longer cares about winning her next tournament or moving to the top of the ladder. Her goal is simply to remain playing the game that she loves for as long as she can. So how does she go about avoiding tennis elbow or preventing a foot problem? And how does she even know what potential injuries lurk in her future before they surface?

I on the other hand was not as careful (or smart) as my friend and developed a shoulder injury. It seemingly came out of nowhere. I did not change anything with my exercise routine, did not have a fall or receive any kind of impact to this area, and did not do anything out of the ordinary. So why all of a sudden did I develop an injury that prevented me from doing the things I love to do? Should I have seen this coming and could I have done something to prevent this injury?

The best answer to these last questions are: 1) probably not, and 2) quite possibly.

But as a person who is actively exercising, and thus putting extra pressure on her body system, the sensible course is to periodically check out my basic physical condition – muscular strength, the functioning of the heart and lungs, bone health, balance – to measure for incipient signs of weakness or problems.

Most people seek care for an injury or ailment once it has reached a point where it begins to affect their daily living. In the 55+ population, many people experience typical signs of aging including: muscular weakness, decreased bone mineral density, balance issues and osteoarthritic changes to their joints. But a physiotherapist or an athletic therapist may be able to detect problems at an earlier stage.

Having an assessment with your physiotherapist/athletic therapist is important for reducing risk or recurrence of injury and learning prevention strategies that can help address the areas of weakness or restrictions before the injury occurs. Education, a prescribed exercise regime and having a good understanding of your condition can help provide positive reassurance about your enduring health and help you to feel confident in carrying out a physically active lifestyle. It is never too early to seek preventive care in order to ensure your enduring fitness.

To remedy basic, often pain-producing flaws in the way you move, you can also book yourself for a postural assessment or functional movement screening.

Posture is the foundation to all movements. An ideal neutral pose is perfectly aligned and balanced. Age, poor posture, stress and bad habits can cause you to lose this ideal alignment, which may cause headaches, joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, and unnecessary stress. A postural assessment typically includes an analysis, education and corrective exercises.

An exercise expert may coach you using a Functional Movement Screening system to document your movement patterns, as they compare to normal function. The FMS identifies functional limitations and asymmetries by taking you through a series of movements. Based on your results you will be provided with specific corrective exercises to restore your body’s natural balance.

Janet Cranston is director of health and fitness at the Reh-Fit Centre

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