Summer is here, and that means heading outside for activities. Outside recreation can also bring risk of possible injuries, which doctors say are common this time of year.
Aaron Newton, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon for Saltzer Health, which is an Intermountain Healthcare company, says winter and summer activities often work muscle groups in different ways. In many cases, as people transition to outdoor activities, the injuries come from overestimating one’s fitness level.
“Even if you partake in winter sports, it works muscle groups in different ways, and our overall activity level is usually lower in winter,” said Dr. Newton, who specializes in sports medicine and shoulder and knee injuries. “Most injuries we see are from people going too hard and too fast right as the weather gets nicer, and their bodies can’t keep up.”
Researchers have seen mixed results about what causes specific injuries, but studies have shown they are higher in the spring. One study found there are more ruptured Achilles tendon injuries in the spring, and they’re lowest in the fall.
These overuse injuries can also include a strained back, pulled muscles, and strained tendons. The worst overuse injury is a stress fracture, which is initially a small crack or cracks in the bone culminating in a complete fracture caused by repetitive force on one part of the body like a foot or leg.
Dr. Newton suggests people gradually increase their activity as they begin transitioning to outdoor activities like hiking, running, or bike riding, and he recommends strengthening muscles over stretching. He recommends not increasing activity more than 10% per week.
Dr. Newton says stretching is recommended after an activity. Static stretching includes hamstrings, arms, and quad holds for 20 to 30 seconds. These are great for flexibility but not before strenuous activity.
Dr. Newton also recommends slowly and gradually increasing your speed or resistance during your warm up. Think of the warmup as a way to boost blood flow and body temperature before significantly working your muscles. Don’t forget about your core, either.
Another important aspect of avoiding future injuries is to get rest and focus on recovering from a current injury. Many times, people are conditioned to ignore and push through pain, but when that pain is from an injury, it can end up making things worse.
Dr. Newton says that while some discomfort is part of exercise, pain should not be the goal. When experts talk about pain and exercise, they use a 0-10 scale, with 10 being the worst pain a patient can experience. Caregivers say exercise should be no more than 4 out of 10 on this scale. If the pain is higher than this, it is a signal to stop and figure out what is causing the pain.
“The best way to continue staying active is to make sure you take care of any injuries, big or small,” said Dr. Newton. “Rest is good for the body, and it’s okay to give yourself a break.”
For more information on about medical specialties at Saltzer Health, click here.