Physical Therapy News Letter June 6, 2016
Outdoor activities like gardening are a healthy and enjoyable way to live an active lifestyle. When the weather is nice, the outdoors are hard to resist. However, a lack of warm up and stretching can lead to aches and pains, even injuries.
A reduction in activity during winter leads to a decrease in physical conditioning. As a result, people tend to overestimate their physical abilities (and limits). Pain from gardening in the lower back, and aches in the shoulders, neck, knees and joints from cleaning the garage, or from other outdoor activities are common.
When the body engages in a strenuous activity, combined with uncomfortable and awkward positions, it responds with pain and sometimes, injury. As physical therapists, we work with many individuals who experience strains and overuse injuries. The most common cause is an insufficient warm-up and the absence of a stretching routine.
Yard work is another example. Awkward (and unfamiliar) body positions during mowing, trimming, seeding and raking are uncomfortable for the body. When performed over an extended period, a chronic, painful condition can emerge.
Previous injuries, lack of exercise, obesity, and existing chronic conditions increase the risk of injury. Pain may range from mild to severe. Many people assume a good night’s sleep will cure the problem, but pain often worsens upon rising the next morning. When the body is ‘pushed past its limit’, an injury occurs, and physical therapy is needed.
Physical therapy plays a significant role in identifying a baseline level of conditioning, and improving it over time. Physical therapists use an arsenal of techniques including skilled manual therapy, carefully selected strengthening exercises, joint stabilization methods and more to prevent, and help in recovery after an injury.
During the initial evaluation, a therapist will determine your goals and ask questions such as “How much time do you spend gardening?”, “What is your favorite outdoor activity and when was the last time you engaged in that activity?” and more. Valuable information is gathered, which allows the therapist to build a customized plan tailored to the needs of the patient. With years of extensive training in anatomy and movement, the therapist will not only recognize your limit but also assist you in gently (and progressively) push your body to reach its limit, under careful supervision. It is a well known scientific fact that this increases your physical capabilities over time.
The biggest mistake made by most people is to ‘wait until you need help’. The problem is – the injury gets worse the longer you wait. The sooner the therapist can evaluate you, the better.
The best time to seek physical therapy is when you don’t have aches and pains, and when you’re preparing for outdoor exercise. Your physical therapist will examine your joints, movement, muscles, posture, gait and much more. Using a variety of scientific tests, the therapist will assess your functional goals and create a plan to help you prevent injuries, so your body is prepared for all outdoor exercises. The therapist may recommend clinical Pilates, low-impact aerobics, strength training or yoga. The therapist may decide to use therapeutic massage and manual therapy techniques, along with heat and cold treatments.
Also, the therapist can evaluate your home and work environment and recommend equipment to ease stress and strain on your joints. Adjustments to the workplace can also help prevent overuse injuries, strains, and sprains. If needed, the therapist will also advise patients on the most efficient and biomechanically correct ways to sit, stand, lift and even get in and out of a car.
Outdoor activities help you stay healthy and happy. A physical therapist at your side will help you safely do the things you enjoy, without having to worry about injuries. Call us today and we’ll make sure you have a safe, healthy and happy summer outside!