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Self-Awareness and Injury Prevention:  Why It Is Important to See Your PT When You’re Healthy

This is a post by Dr. Carrie Smith

Swim suits don’t become threadbare in a day. You know it is happening—you’ve been swimming regularly for a few months, the suit seems to have a little more drag in the water than usual—then one day you walk by the mirror and notice anatomy that is supposed to be covered has suddenly become visible. Time for a new suit! When you put that new suit on for the first time, you can’t believe how bad the old one had become. The new suit feels completely different, but you needed to remember how good a new one felt after you had become accustomed to the feel of an old, worn-down suit. Having contrast between what feels good and fits correctly and what doesn’t is an important part of health and wellness. The self-awareness that arises from that can also be an important part of injury prevention and can help you better understand what your body and mind are asking for during the season. Seeing your physical therapist while you’re feeling good can help you understand healthy movements and provide you tools to monitor changes throughout the season.

What will I do in physical therapy when I don’t have pain?

  1. Movement screen to check strength, mobility, and asymmetrical patterns

  2. Instructions on how to self-monitor for changes and individualized exercises (foam rolling, stretch, strength, etc.) to keep you healthy

We often see athletes for maintenance during the training season. Preventative medicine is the best way to save health care money over time! These athletes have become very tuned in to their bodies and understand that taking action as soon as they move from the state of feeling good will keep them healthier and faster during the season.

Self-monitoring during the season

Training for endurance sports purposely creates small disturbances in the body’s anatomy and physiology, with the idea that appropriate recovery will allow these systems to adapt and grow stronger. That’s how we get faster. Injuries arise when there is an imbalance in load and recovery. Here are some tips to help you navigate these planned times of increasing stress in the body that are necessary in training!

Yellow flags (use your self-care techniques at home):

  1. Soreness after a workout or race—that can happen with an increased training load. The soreness should be global (through the whole muscle group or body) but will decrease with time. Perform either very easy exercise or take a few days off until you are no longer sore with walking and touch to the area.

  2. Tightness during a workout—you just feel like everything is stiff. If that happens, spend extra time warming up. Some days it may be 10 minutes, and in some athletes this can take 30 minutes or longer. Just keep the intensity at an easy effort, and avoid high intensity efforts if you don’t loosen up. You just need an easy day or two or a day off.


Red flags (time to visit your health care provider):

  1.  Asymmetrical soreness: a common theme I hear athletes talk about is soreness in one leg but not the other, often the hamstring or calf. This is often due to a compensatory movement and needs to be addressed so one particular body part doesn’t become overstressed and injured.

  2. Tight muscles that never seem to improve with foam rolling and stretching, especially around the hips, hamstrings and shoulders: These muscles will often tighten to give us stability when our postural stabilizing muscles (deep core and neck stabilizers) have become weak or are not coordinated well with arm and leg movements.

  3. Localized soreness around a joint or within the muscle

Learning what it feels like and what you move like when you are in a good state of health provides a great contrast to compare to during the season. Early recognition and preventative action when change arises will keep you training and racing throughout the season!


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