To Your Health
July, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 07)
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Think about your activity from this perspective. In general, softball, basketball and running tend to be young people's activities.

Tennis, hiking, bicycling and swimming are activities that can last essentially a lifetime. Gardening is a tough one. Everyone wants to be out there in their garden, but gardening involves lots of bending, stooping, lifting and pulling. It's not the best activity for someone with a vulnerable lower back. If you're a golfer, you're better off walking between holes rather than using a cart. This will keep you warmed up and less likely to strain cold muscles.

I used to be a downhill skier; now, I cross-country ski. I used to be a hard-shell whitewater kayaker; now, I do short jaunts in my flat-water kayak on lakes. I've been willing to change my activities while still staying active. You might need to do the same. Some people can get away with just about anything, no matter how old they are or how well they've prepared. Most of us have to be more careful and diligent. You can extend your "season" and keep doing what you love if you take care of yourself. You probably know what to do; you just need to prioritize it.

When Injury Strikes

What can you do when injury strikes? It's going to happen sooner or later. The basic principle: provide an optimal environment for healing. This has various aspects. Keep moving if you can. If you feel a little sore when you perform your sport or activity, but better after you warm up, and you're not sore that night or the next day, great! You can still do your sport. If you continue to hurt during your activity, if you are limping, if you hurt worse that night or the next morning, you'd better back off, or you'll risk further injury. Pay attention to the area you injured. Make sure you warm that local area up well, before you go full speed.

Ice almost always is great. Apply cold for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to injure your skin with the ice pack. You can use various liniments or homeopathic remedies applied to the injured area. Anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen or Aleve, actually will block healing of tendons and muscles. Immediately after an injury, the body is trying to use inflammation to create healing to lay down new tissue.

You need to learn to listen to your body. How bad is the injury? Can you still move normally? What hurts? Most minor injuries will heal on their own relatively quickly. I tell my patients that if something isn't getting obviously better within a week, they need to call me and get assessed. Some injuries are more obviously serious and need immediate attention. Weekend warriors have a tendency to be good at denial. Don't wait forever to get help because it just makes it harder to get your body right again.

Go out and enjoy your outdoor activities, your sport, your passion. But use common sense and pay attention to your body. Taking care of yourself, both preventively and post-injury, will ensure you continue to have a good time doing what you truly enjoy.