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Spring Into Summer – Safely

Posted 3/31/2015 by UHBlog

With the warmer temperatures of spring and summer fast approaching, activities such as gardening, golfing and tennis will once again be on everyone’s schedule. And since most of us hibernate during the winter months, when the nice weather hits, we want to jump right into all of the activities we’ve been missing. However, whether you’re 8 or 80, after a lengthy period of inactivity, we all need to prepare our bodies for the additional demands of a healthy, active lifestyle.

If you haven’t been exercising regularly during the winter (lifting a cup of hot chocolate repeatedly doesn’t count) take the advice of sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon J. Martin Leland, MD, and start your “spring training” now.

“As an arthroscopic surgeon, the most common injuries I see in my adult patients are shoulder and knee tears,” says Dr. Leland. “And many of these painful injuries could be avoided if people followed some simple guidelines before and during physical activity.”

Dr. Leland recommends that adults of all ages do the following:

  1. Talk to your primary care physician about your fitness goals and the best way to safely ease into an exercise routine to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility. Once you have been given the go ahead, make exercise a daily habit. Slowly and gradually build up endurance but remember to always listen to your body. “Soreness after a workout is fine, pain is not. If your pain is not relieved by ibuprofen or naproxen and if the pain is all you can think about, that’s bad pain and you need to slow it down,” says Dr. Leland.
  2. Practice good form when lifting heavy objects to prevent rotator cuff tears and back injuries. Bend with your hips and knees – not your back – when lifting objects off the ground, and hold heavy items close to your body. Do not extend your arms when lifting or carrying objects and keep a slight bend in your elbows to reduce stress on your shoulders. As we age, the tissues in our body lose resilience and can take longer to heal so the best strategy is to prevent injury in the first place.
  3. Keep your bones strong with a healthy diet. Avoid processed foods, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and low-fat calcium rich dairy products like yogurt and skim milk. Dr. Leland also recommends that all adults take a multi-vitamin daily. While studies show that nutrients obtained through food are best, it can sometimes be difficult to get the recommended amount of some vitamins and minerals through diet alone. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are also helpful in maintaining bone density – particularly for post-menopausal women. Talk to your doctor about all of the medications you take and which supplements are recommended for you.

Even with precautions, however, injuries still occur. If your knee or shoulder pain does not subside over time with ice, rest and over-the-counter medications, or if you feel a stabbing, persistent pain, it’s probably time to talk to an orthopedic specialist. “Even though I’m a surgeon,” says Dr. Leland, “80 percent of my patients do not require surgery and can be successfully treated with medications and physical therapy.”

According to Dr. Leland, the first line of treatment is usually anti-inflammatory medications. In addition, he will often prescribe physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the joint. And sometimes, a steroid injection will be given to calm things down – it’s not a permanent fix but can last for 4 to 6 weeks. Steroids are really just a concentrated anti-inflammatory that can reduce the pain so that physical therapy is more tolerable for the patient and they can recover more quickly.

Final words of wisdom? Warm up and cool down. Stretching before you exercise will warm up your muscles and help to prevent injury. Icing afterwards will draw blood away from the muscles that have been stressed and give them a chance to calm down and reduce any swelling that might occur.

Dr. Leland is the Medical Director of Sports Medicine at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center and is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He has offices at University Hospitals Geneva Medical Center and University Hospitals Solon Health Center. Call 440-285-5004 to schedule a consultation. You can also request an appointment with Dr. Leland or any other doctor online.

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