But alas, I, owner of the clinics and consequently someone who genuinely knows better, really suck at doing my home care exercises. Oftentimes when I go in for treatment I tell the clinician, "I know, I know - what I really need to do is strengthen my glute muscles. I know that would relieve my back pain and prevent it from reoccurring. But I just can't seem to make myself do it! Can't I just lay here and you make me feel better? Please?!"
And the answer is, yes. I can lay there and receive treatment, and my pain will subside. But unfortunately the relief is temporary and I soon find myself whining to Josh once again. I have come to learn from much, much experience that the times I go the longest without pain are those times where I find it within myself to do some of the exercises and stretches as prescribed by my team. These are also usually the times when I most desperate, when my pain is so much that is it negatively impacting or preventing me from enjoying other aspects of my life. The team has all been incredibly creative with me: recommending ways I can do small things while I'm doing other tasks in my busy life, so it doesn't become yet another thing to schedule or add to the to-do list. Some recent examples are how I will lay on the floor while watching TV, doing glute bridges as recently recommended by Dr Barry (see her video of this exact exercise here), or how I will waddle around the kitchen while making dinner with a thera-band tied around my thighs, as recommended recently by River. My pain is far less, oftentimes non-existent, the following day if I manage to do even just a few minutes of these exercises.
I know I'm not alone in this! Do you also struggle to do your home care recommendations? If you are like me and just can't seem to make or find the time, please talk with our team. I can say from personal experience how creative and amazing they are at coming up with ways to help people do the things that will most help them feel better, in the most efficient way possible, without it feeling like a chore. Treatment in the clinic matters, absolutely, but what matters more is what you are doing with the other ~23 hours of your day when you're not with the team. A few minutes of home care will allow you to achieve your health goals in a fraction of the time and cost then if you stick to treatment in the clinic alone. You can take my word for it!
Lisa Shaw, Co-Owner (and frequent patient) at Energize Health
Starting a new season can be an exciting time, especially after a year like we have all had! It can also be a time where the likelihood of injury is higher, due to our bodies not being used to the demands of the sport. With this in mind, we have created a simple outline, focusing on 3 key areas, to prepare your body for a safe and healthy return to softball. Let’s get into it!
Tip #1: Easing Your Way Back into Sport
Out of all the areas of focus discussed here, this is by far the most important. No matter how strong your body is, how warmed up you are, or how great your daily habits are, the rate at which you return to your in-season level of play will have a major role in how likely you are to become injured. While there are general exercises and stretches we can do before the season starts to prepare our muscle and joints (covered in the next tip), they are no substitute for the actual movements and actions of your sport like throwing, batting, sprinting etc. This is why it’s important, before the season even starts, to get outside and start practicing some of these specific skills at a lower intensity and lower number of repetitions than typically expected while in-game. Once you are out there, start with just a small number of light throws, light batting practice, and some light running to get a feel for how your body responds. The next day, if it’s been a while since you last practiced these things, you may notice your muscles are a bit sore and that’s OK! Once that soreness has disappeared (if you had any), get back out there and do bit more throwing, batting, and running than last time. Continue with this routine until you are at or close to the intensity and number of repetitions expected during your season. This is an amazing way to prepare your muscles and joints for the stresses placed on them from softball, therefore reducing your chances of getting hurt.
Tip #2: Strengthening, Stretching, and Warmups
Now that we’ve covered how to slowly reintroduce specific aspects of softball in order to prevent injury, we can now talk about things you can do more generally, to prepare and strengthen your muscles and joints. Depending on an athlete’s age and skill level, strengthening exercises can be implemented either year-round or leading up to the season as a great way to prevent injury. Stretching is also an important factor to consider, as well as a thorough warmup before practices, games, and workouts. This section can be broken down into two parts: upper body and lower body preparation.
- Upper Body Preparation
In softball, unlike sports without throwing involved, there are high demands placed on the upper body, especially for pitchers. Therefore, it’s important to both stretch and strengthen the muscles of arms, shoulders, back etc. Here are a couple of examples of some exercises you can try. This is not an exhaustive list by any means and be sure to avoid any of the ones listed if they cause any sort of pain. Just like we mentioned in the first point with easing back into softball, it’s important to ease into these as well to avoid over-working the area.
- These are great as a warmup before any sort of throwing, batting, or strengthening
- Start slow and controlled and then gradually build up the speed
- Can be done both forwards and backwards
- Complete approximately 20-30 repetitions each way
Thread the Needle
Here is a great stretch to improve the range of motion of our trunk rotation which is very important in both throwing and batting, as you can imagine!
- Starting on all 4’s, begin by reaching one arm between your other arm and leg as far as you can
- From here, bring the arm back through and reach up towards the ceiling as far as you can
- Repeat 10-20 times per side
Shoulder Circles with a Resistance Band
This acts as both a stretch and strengthening exercise which is why we like it so much!
- Using a light resistance band held in each hand, slowly perform shoulder circles with as much range of motion and tension as you feel comfortable
- Start with just 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions to assess tolerance and build up from there
This is a great way to strengthen the rotator cuff and other various muscles that surround the shoulder joint which is especially important for throwing strength and injury prevention.
- With the band anchored in the middle to the wall around eye level, begin with arms straight
- Pull back with both arms, squeezing the shoulder blades together and trying to get both your elbows and hands as far back as they go
- Return to arms straight out in front of you before beginning the next repetition
- Again, start with just 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions and build up from there
B. Lower Body Preparation
Your core is often misrepresented as just the abdominal muscles, but in reality, it is so much more! Your core is an intricate system that includes abdominals in the front, erector spinae muscles and glutes in the back, and the diaphragm, pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the top and bottom. Your core is important to help stabilize/protect your spine as you move. Better core movement will help your spine to move less and transfer greater force through your arms or legs, ie. helping you to swing the bat with more power or run faster.
Softball requires a lot of stop and go movements. Being able to take off in a burst of speed around the bases requires explosive power through the hips and fast footwork. Dynamic stretching can be a great way to improve range of motion of the hips and get the muscles better primed up for activities.
Listed below are a few exercises that incorporate stretching, mobilizing and strengthening the legs and core.
World’s Greatest Stretch with Hamstring Stretch:
- Lunge forward with your right leg, and as you move down into the lunge, place your left hand on the floor so it’s even with your right knee.
- Begin to twist to the right as you reach your right arm up and out to the sky. You can turn your head and neck following your right arm upwards. Hold in this position for 8-10 seconds/ or as long as you need.
- Return back to a forward lunge, then straighten your right knee to stretch your hamstring. Hold for another 5-10 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the left leg.
Knee Hug to lunge:
- Bring your right knee up to your trunk for 1-2 seconds. Release and step forward into a lunge with the right leg.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side.
Quick feet forward/backwards:
Move feet forward and backward over an imaginary line. Aim to do 20 reps per side, you can also repeat moving feet in/out as well. Start slow to get a good rhythm and gradually increase speed.
- Grab a theraband and tie it around a pole or secure it to the hinge of a door. If you are at the gym, you can use a cable at chest to shoulder height, and keep the weight very low.
- Step an arm’s length away and assume an athletic stance, with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Squeeze your glutes to stabilize your pelvis. Hold the band/cable at the level of your sternum.
- To begin, slowly extend your arms out and pause for 1-2 seconds, and then slowly bring them back to starting position. Repeat 5 times per side, for 3 sets total.
Tip# 3 Start with good nutrition and sleep
Getting a good night's rest is one of the best things you can do to optimize your strength, speed and reaction time. While you're sleeping, your body is working hard to repair muscles, strengthen your immune system, and improve overall brain function.
Having trouble getting to sleep? Try some of these tips:
- Turn off computer or phone an hour before bed
- Sleep in cool, dark environment
- Aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep
- Try a warm bath or shower before bed to relax
- Set a regular time to go to bed and wake up
In addition to sleep, nutrition is another important factor for optimizing sports performance. As recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society, a well-balanced diet should contain macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein and fats, as well as micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. A few things to keep in mind for nutrition:
- Try to include complex carbohydrates that are slower to digest and provide a more stable form of energy. These can include brown rice, legumes, whole grains, and sweet potatoes.
- Make sure to get enough protein. According to Stamford Health young athletes can require between 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight
- Limit highly processed foods, especially fried foods that are high trans fats. Try to include mono-saturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, salmon and avocados.
- Stay hydrated! Try to stay away from sugary sports drinks with electrolytes and instead opt for using a squeeze of lemon, pinch of salt, an electrolyte tablet, or coconut water.
A great guide for information on sports nutrition for young athletes can be found through Alberta Health Services: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-sports-nutrition-for-youth.pdf
We hope you find benefit from these tips as you resume softball this season and for many years to come. If you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance, please reach out. Best wishes for an awesome, injury-free season, SBR!
- Dr Nicole and Kevin
About the Authors
Nicole Barry, Chiropractor (Energize Health South)
Dr. Barry has always maintained a passion for health and fitness, participating in variety of sports from a young age. Her enthusiasm for an active lifestyle has given her the opportunity to connect and work with athletes of all ages. While many people associate adjustments with chiropractic care, that is just one of the tools in her toolbox. Dr. Nicole employs a combination of soft tissue therapies, adjustments, gentle joint mobilizations, kinesiology taping, and rehabilitative exercises to help her athletes recover and function at their best.
Book online with Dr Nicole Barry at our south Calgary location
Kevin Connell, Physiotherapist (both Energize Health North & South)
Kevin is physiotherapist who has been a lifelong athlete. From baseball, soccer, and football to track and field and even competitive badminton, he has extensive experience in a wide range of sports. With time spent as a coach, personal trainer and now physiotherapist, he has a passion for helping those who are dealing with pain and injury from a sport and for those who want improve their ability and performance.
Shin splints is a common condition that is characterized by pain on the front of the lower leg (shin). This condition can be triggered by irritated muscles on the back of the leg (the calf). In the springtime we often see a lot of clients with this condition: people who are excited to get outside and enjoy outdoor activity, oftentimes after being less physically active during the colder months. When we change our level of activity and/or the types of activities we engage in, we can experience discomfort as our bodies adjust to the new demands.
Here are a few things you can try to help prevent shin splints so you can enjoy the outdoors without pain!
- Warm up your muscles before going on a jog or long walk. Stand on your tip toes, and slowly lower your heels to the ground. This is a great way to get your blood pumping before and after activity. Try to do 10 to 15 repetitions if you can.
- If you just finished your first hike of the year – consider soaking your feet and calves in cold water to decrease the severity of sore muscles.
- Speaking of feet, have you tried using a massage ball or a water bottle to roll under your feet to stretch out and massage your arches? It feels amazing and is a great way to maintain your muscle health between massages!
If you think you might be dealing with shin splints, don't worry! Massage therapists can provide effective relief from the pain associated with this condition and we can help you prevent it from happening again. So, get out there, get moving, and enjoy the beautiful spring weather!
Recently I was talking with my brother Mike who said, “my lower back starts to ache whenever I see snow in the forecast.” If you too can relate to Mike’s pain, know that you are not alone. I hear this statement all the time in the clinic, and in a city like Calgary this can make it hard to get through the long and snowy winter. To help make this winter a bit more comfortable keep reading to see my top 6 tips for spine-friendly snow shoveling.
1. Lighten the load
Avoid the temptation to load up that snow shovel. Keeping the shovel light will reduce the load on your lower back and help keep you feeling your best. Yes, it may take a few minutes longer to clear the snow, but your spine with thank you the next day.
2. Keep the shovel close
The further you reach a loaded shovel away from your body, the greater the sheer stress in your lower back. An easy way to reduce this stress is to keep the shovel close to your core and tilt the shovel to unload the snow.
3. Avoid the “bend and twist”
Nothing makes my back hurt quite like watching someone bend and twist their spine while lifting – “ouch!” To keep your chiropractor from cringing, please remember to hinge from the hips and avoid spinal twisting whenever lifting or moving the shovel.
4. Engage your core
Gentle core engagement will act as a support brace for your lower back, providing extra stability when performing a challenging task. To create this abdominal brace, gently tense your core muscles, thinking of lifting your lower abdomen in and up.
5. Take breaks
A simple way to reduce lower back stress is to take frequent breaks. This may mean going inside to warm up, pausing to have a socially distanced chat with a neighbor, or merely stopping to enjoy some fresh air in the beautiful wintery wonderland.
6. Ask for help
If your lower back hurts before you even step outside, then consider asking a family member or neighbor for help. Pain is an important signal that the body uses to get your attention. Listen to your body and avoid pushing through the pain.
Written by Dr. Caitlyn Cameron BSc(Hons), BSc, DC
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