Is injury prevention something you actually think about with regards to your physical pursuits and/or training?
We’ve all had injuries at some point which have put us out of action. Besides frustration at not being able to do what ever it is you like doing, injuries are a top contender for what limits our progress the most.
Even if injury prevention sounds like a good idea to you, what would you actually do to put this into action? Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start, we can help.
Prehab is a concept of injury prevention and maintenance of our joint health. It isn’t defined by a specific set of movements but rather from a set of principles and understanding of human biology and anatomy.
The principle that states: ‘Structure and function are reciprocally related’, is one of the founding principles of Osteopathy as put forward by Dr Andrew Taylor Still back in 1897 and this principle is at work in our approach to prehab, in our classes and permeates throughout all that we do.
This means that the way we use our bodies has an effect upon and influences the actual structure, whilst the structure simultaneously influences the functions that are possible. Each of our joints has a specific bony structure, a shape that determines how two or more bones can move around one other. The elbow joint for example has a shape that allows the hinge type action we are all familiar with, whilst the hip joint (see image below) has a ball and socket type structure allowing for multidirectional rotations.
But joints are far more than just the ends of two bones, they are complex relations of connective tissues such as tendons, joint capsules and fascial sheaths, as well as muscles, nerves, synovial membranes and a complex array of blood vessels. Each of these components have specific structures themselves, specific placements in their relative positions to each other, degrees of elasticity, strength, rigidity etc, characteristics that are all reflections of their own underlying microstructure.
It’s crucial to remember that all of these structures are living tissues made up of cells and a wonderful array of proteins, fluids and the rest! These living tissues are continually responding to both the physical and biological stresses that we place upon them, through our movement patterns, diet and lifestyle.
If a joint is not taken regularly through it’s full range of motion, this impacts upon the structure of the joint. Synovial fluid does not move as freely over the joint surfaces and this can have a negative impact on the health of the cartilage. Connective tissues respond over time by losing their elasticity, tendons can shorten, muscles can weaken, the nervous system controlling reflex movements can become sluggish and even blood and lymphatic circulation can slow down.
Connective tissue structures and muscle tissue both respond to mechanical loading by changing their structural make up. Muscles respond faster and the changes are most visible (increased size within weeks) but tendons and ligaments are also capable of change. The density, ratios and directions of proteins can all change, both in the short term and long term (via adaptation), which in turn can alter their inherent properties such as tensile strength (how much load they can handle before they break).
The timescale of our progress and planning is slowed down in terms of increasing difficulty and resistance in line with the above timescales of biology. Mastery of the basics is not just some conceited wisdom of elite coaches, but a concept based on allowing anatomical adaption to occur first (because function alters structure remember), before we rush ahead with more demanding exercises that our structure is not yet ready to handle.
Rest, Recovery & Treatments
After physical and sport type activity, the body needs time for recovery and fortunately, our bodies can do this without any conscious input from us. However, because of this lack of engagement needed on our part, we all too often don’t give our recovery any thought and often don’t connect the dots between what we think are separate aspects of our lives.
Our overall volume of weekly training needs to be in the context of the rest of our lives. How much ‘real rest’ our we getting? Is your work life very physical or mentally demanding also? Do you get enough sleep? You may be a shift worker for example or have a child that wakes you at night. It is factors like this that are not often considered for the average fitness enthusiast, but ask any professional athlete and all of these factors are carefully considered.
Having a proper coach is hugely beneficial, professional advice from an outside perspective can help clarify where you may be adding unnecessary resistance against your progress. Regular treatments form a professionally trained therapist can also offer huge benefits in the prevention of injury. Most people wait until they have a problem before they seek help but regular sessions from a good Osteopath, Physio or Massage therapist can do wonders at relieving tight and sore muscles and simply aid in promoting overall relaxation, which is conducive to recovery and repair.
Specific Prehab Sessions
We recommend introducing weekly prehab sessions into your schedule. Drawing upon all of what we have already discussed, these sessions should encourage taking your joints through their full range of motion, include lot’s of stretching and include some weighted mobility and light resistance work to encourage blood flow.
- Schedule weekly prehab sessions
- Include both passive and active stretching
- Focus on full range of joint motion
- Work motions that directly oppose and thus balance your other workouts. Like shoulder extension exercises to balance pressing work for example.
- Weighted mobility to promote joint stability and control
- Low resistance training at high volume to encourage blood and lymphatic circulation around the joints for improved recovery. Think sets of 20 reps and above or for around 60 seconds or longer. These should not feel intense but with some effort needed.
- Seek the advice of an expert Coach where possible. A visit to Forma can save you years on slow or no progress with your training.
- Regular massage and hands on therapy such as Osteopathy is hugely beneficial