By Cassandra Kroner, PT
It is a common misconception that you only need to see a physiotherapist if you have an injury or pain. Physiotherapists have a wide range of skills, and recognizing the risk for future injury is one of them. Injury prevention is applicable to all individuals, regardless of their activity level, from the office worker to the athlete, and especially for those with previous injuries that could reoccur.
In general there are two types of injuries – traumatic and repetitive strain. Traumatic injuries are easier to understand, as they are the result of a singular event that causes damage. On the other hand, repetitive strain injuries occur when stressors that normally do not cause harm are repeated to the point of causing micro trauma that builds over time until the tissue becomes inflamed and injured. These injuries tend to begin subtly, and gradually increase in severity. Combined with the multi-factorial list of possible contributing factors, repetitive strain injuries can be challenging to diagnose and treat. However, in most cases repetitive strain injuries can be avoided with a good injury prevention and maintenance program.
A Common Factor: Muscle Imbalance
When an individual is involved in one specific sport or has a repetitive aspect to their job, the muscles are put under a great deal of strain to repeatedly perform the same movements. Sedentary jobs involving prolonged postures can have similar effects with certain muscles constantly working for long periods. Over time, muscle imbalances develop as the muscles that are being used the most continue to get strong while the reciprocating muscles become lengthened and weak. These muscle imbalances can cause movement restrictions that affect performance and increase stress on the body. Increased stress on muscles, joints and ligaments eventually leads to a repetitive strain injury.
The First Steps Toward Injury Prevention
Getting started on the road to injury prevention is as simple as booking an appointment with a physiotherapist. If you are unsure how injury prevention could apply to you or if you could be at risk for injury, speaking with a physiotherapist can help clarify your needs and goals. The same expert assessment skills physiotherapists use to diagnose injury will be used to proactively assess for risk factors that could lead to future injury. Your lifestyle, the demands of your job, and the specific sports or activities you participate in will be considered, along with the assessment findings, to develop an individualized treatment plan. This plan could involve manual therapy to correct joint restrictions or muscle length imbalance, strength and flexibility exercises, correction of movement patterns, and education.
By addressing several predisposing factors to injury, the body is optimally prepared to handle the demands of the workplace or sport. This can translate to decreased frequency and severity of future injuries, with the added benefit of a shortened recovery time in the event an injury does occur. Don’t wait for an injury to strike to take charge of your health!