This article first appeared in Today's Dallas Woman, Apr. 1998

Return of the Weekend Warrior

Take A Slow Steady Course

The warm weather brings out more than Texas wildflowers during this time of year. The joggers, bikers, rollerbladers and hikers are out and about!

Fed up with the boredom of being cooped up indoors during the winter, these folks hit the trails, courts and courses on the first warm weekend as though they are well-trained Olympic athletes.

The problem is, most aren't - and most of them end up suffering the spoils of being a "weekend warrior".

From shin splints to an achilles heel, shoulder sprains, sore knees, back strains and even calluses, the battle scars are real.

Some problems can be eased with chiropractic care, and heat and ice treatments. Others situations are referred to a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon.

Icon Slow Down
One way to avoid becoming hurt while getting physical is to take any activity slowly the first time out.

"Take it easy at first," commented Kathryn Lambert D.O. "People who start out too fast only run into an injury that can amoung other things, dampen your enthusiasm to be active."

This may sound logical, but, many people have trouble following this advice. In the heat of a golf or tennis match a nagging shoulder pain is pushed to the side in order to finish playing. Listen to your pain- it's trying to tell you something!

We're captivated by the view from our mountain bike and continue pedaling, despite the fact that our legs are telling us it's time to stop.

We're in the middle of an exhilarating jog and don't want to quit, even if our back is giving us a warning that it needs a rest. Or maybe we're just trying to prove something to ourselves, our friends or our spouses.

The problem, as we all know, comes from an inactive winter spent in front of the television. This couch potato past-time doesn't help anyone running a 26-mile marathon.

Instead, it can lead a person right into sore muscles, strained ligaments and possibly a fracture or two.

"Muscles are more vunerable to injury or damage following a period of misuse," said Lori Ploutz-Synder, Ph.D., "so listen carefully to your body."

Icon Be Realistic
Instead of going for all 26 miles at once, break your physical activity goals into achievable milestones. Restrict your court time or try one round of golf instead of two.

And for those who are in marathon training, begin by running half-mile to mile increments to increase strength and endurance.

Icon Remember - Warm Up and Cool Down
Even if you've been working out all winter and believe you're in outstanding physical condition, don't forget to stretch before and after any type of physical activity.

The most common sports injuries occur when muscles are tight and the cardiovascular system sluggish.

Stretching makes your muscles and joints more pliable and helps kick up your breathing and heart rate so muscles can get the oxygen they need to perform.

At the end of any physical exertion, it's also important to "cool down" by stretching.

Icon Get Some R.I.C.E.
If despite the above you do experience an injury or even discomfort during any type of physical activity, don't continue playing hurt.

Stop immediately, ice the injury, compress it with an elastic bandage, then rest and elevate it. This is known as R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, elevate) and it can work wonders for preventing further injury and speeding recovery.

If the injured body part appears crooked, you can't put weight on it or there is bad pain or swelling at the injured site, seek emergency care immediately.

For less severe strains or sprains, see your chiropractor for non-drug help. Sports injuries almost always cause spinal problems that can increase pain.

Adjustments can help re-align the spine or any other joint such as a knee, shoulder, or ankle thereby decreasing pain.

Icon A New Attitude
However you decide to treat a sports injury, remember that keeping a good mental attitude about it will help you recover faster. Be realistic about the fact that you are injured and won't be able to get back to that activity for awhile.

If you're needing to follow a rehabilitation program, make sure it's one you can stick to. If you're bored with inactivity, consider cross-training (which doesn't effect the injured body part) or yoga to keep muscles firm and flexible.

Above all, make sure you understand how and why the injury occurred in the first place, so you can avoid a repetition.

Seasonal sports injuries, while painful are avoidable. A little common sense and preparation can ensure that your spring and summer are spent free from pain.

Suzan J. Smith, D.C., is a chiropractor in Carrollton. She teaches yoga classes on a regular basis. She has released a yoga video for beginners and intermediates and a second yoga video for pregnant women.

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