Picture a stack of jelly donuts crammed into a plastic tube (stay with me here); if you bend, hit, or press on the tube enough eventually some of the filling will squeeze out of the donuts, right? It’s certainly not a perfect analogy, but this a good image of what a herniated disc is. Your spine (the tube) is made up of individual bones called vertebrae (the donuts), which are separated by cushion-like discs (the jelly). When the disc is moved out of place (by improper movement, pressure, or age related wear and tear), it can irritate a nearby nerve and cause pain, weakness, or numbness in your limbs. Not all cases need surgery, but some can be serious enough to require it. Thankfully, chiropractic care can help with most disc herniations.
So how do we avoid our jelly donuts falling apart?
- Practice good posture – keeping your spine in any position it wasn’t meant to be in for long periods of time or over many repetitive instances can wreak havoc on your body and increase pressure to the spine that it wasn’t meant to handle. So, sit up straight please.
- Good lifting mechanics – I posted about this topic a while back. This is the main takeaway: something is only good for you if you do it right. Otherwise, it can be bad. In the case of sports injuries, very bad! Herniated discs are one of the common injuries that can be caused by poor lifting mechanics. So keep that back straight on those deadlifts, girl.
- Maintain a healthy weight – excess weight leads to excess pressure/strain on the spine. As we’ve learned, this is what causes herniated discs. As if we needed another reason to not have that McDonald’s dinner.
Hamstring Pulls and Tears
Hamstring injuries have three categories; grade 1, 2, and 3. Creative right? A hamstring strain is when the muscle over-stretches but doesn’t tear= grade 1-(chiropratic care/myofascial release can usually help this one). A grade 2 hamstring tear is when the muscle partially tears, and a grade 3 is….bad. In a grade 3 tear the muscle fully tears or it can even mean it was ripped off of the bone, YIKES.
Hamstring injuries are caused by exactly what you’d think; overstretching the muscle, which can happen gradually overtime during slow movements, during explosive movements like sprinting, lunging, or jumping (how the injury usually occurs).
So is there a way to prevent this? Yes! Here’s a great post by Genesis Orthopaedic and Spine that goes over how you can best prevent this **unpleasant** injury. Luckily, these are things you should be doing anyway, so following a proper exercise and recovery regimen should be enough for us non-professional athletes.
- Stretch – how to prevent an over stretch? Increase your stretching capabilities! It’s important to incorporate a flexibility regimen in your conditioning program. This is particularly important when warming up for your workouts. Cold muscles are tight muscles.
- Strengthen – Strength training for the hamstrings (particularly eccentric exercises) should also be a part of your conditioning program. This article goes over the more sciencey version of things, but for our purposes it suffices to say that eccentric exercises focus on prolonging the stretching portion of the movement, thereby increasing muscle strength at elongated muscle lengths and increasing resiliency of the hamstrings.
- Rest adequately – This research review examines all things evidence based in terms of preventing hamstring injuries in sports. It goes over how rest seems to be correlated to hamstring injury. As it turns out, fatigued muscles are able to absorb less energy before reaching the degree of stretch that causes injuries. This just backs up the already pretty well established premise that rest is as important to an exercise regimen as the exercise itself is.
In conclusion, many preventative measures are really the same as taking care of your body in general; rest, warmups/cool downs, a balanced exercise regimen, good form, maintaining a healthy weight, etc. None of it is breaking news, chances are we already know we have to do all these things. But these things are still highly impactful factors for your overall health, they’re not just urban myths or current fads.
So, make sure to invest in your long-term health by sacrificing a little short term gratification and make sure to rest, stretch, sit up straight, and lift the heavy weights. Stay tuned for part 2; unfortunately, there are far more than 2 common strength training injuries!
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