Like any system, your body is only as strong as its weakest link. If your activities or lifestyle strain particular muscles, the weakest link can reveal itself in the form of muscle strain or a muscle pull.
If you are an athlete, chances are that you have experienced this in one way or another. Once one area of the body is in pain or is injured, trying to compensate only strains other areas and leads to further problems. The good news is your body, if functioning properly, is constantly trying to heal or harmonize itself when given a chance. The bad news is, if you are experiencing pain or an injury, your healing or harmonizing ability is not keeping up with the stresses you’re applying to your system.
So what are the keys to prevention? Here are few:
1. Make sure you have strength AND flexibility. Sometimes as athletes we build strength, but neglect flexibility. Or, we develop flexibility by don’t put as much emphasis on strength. When you favor one over the other, you create imbalance that can lead to injury. A strong muscle that is tight lacks the suppleness to handle a sudden muscle strain, and muscle fibers tear. A flexible muscle is suddenly put to the test, and lacks the strength to hold its own, also resulting in a muscle pull.
2. Train to develop strength and ability in many directions. Too often athletes practice only what they need to for a particular sport. When you do this, you develop certain abilities (for example sprinting acceleration), but leave behind other skills (for example the ability to move laterally). When you favor one set of muscle fibers over another, one part is developed and the other part is under-developed by comparison. A sudden motion that exposes the under-developed muscles results in a muscle strain or pull.
3. Warm up. Everyone has heard of this one, but too often it is not done the right way. A cold rubber band is less elastic than a warm one, and your muscles are no different. Do not start by stretching them – this is not a good approach. Start by moving around – break a light sweat. At this point you can go through some stretching. In general it is better to stretch after your training than before. The body is warm, your muscles are more elastic, and stretching at this time helps to develop flexibility, which most athletes need.
4. Recover on daily basis. The key to preventing the onset of a fatigue injury or a chronic muscle injury is to allow your muscles to recover after daily practice. If you don’t, sooner or later your body will lose the battle and you will find yourself with an injury. Rest is key. Proper warm-downs are a good way to reduce shock to the body. We also recommend certain topical formulas available from a company called Chi Herbal. These sprays and soaks have been quite good for helping athletes’ recover from competition or daily training quickly.