Avoiding common injuries this holiday season
The festive season is well and truly in full swing. The holidays have arrived, the decorations are hung, roasts are being roasted, backyard cricket pitches are receiving final preparations and Santa is double checking his naughty or nice list. But around Australia Physiotherapists and other health professionals are holding their collective breaths; for the Christmas break is a time when Aussies like to push their bodies to the limit. We’re not just talking about a tummy ache from too much Christmas pudding, or stepping on some brand new Lego either. Statistics show that hospital admissions increase by at least 10% during the Christmas period as more people engage in biking, swimming, surfing and trampolining with the old grog consumption related injuries skyrocketing too. My favourite medical acronym gets written on every second xray at this time of year: PAFO – “pissed and fell-over”! Preventing injuries and accidents is essential to getting the most enjoyment out of this holiday season and avoiding a nasty trip to the hospital or limping into your physiotherapist’s office in the New Year.
Rule number 1: DON’T GET SLACK WITH YOUR INJURY MANAGEMENT ROUTINE
We know it’s been a long year and you deserve some rest and relaxation, but if you have a regular routine of exercises or stretches to manage an ongoing condition, continue over the holiday period. Every January Northern Beaches physiotherapists see an increase in people with injury “flare-ups” due to taking a rest from their injury management routine.
Rule 2: Ease into your New Year resolutions
If you went to the gym twice in 2018, please don’t start 2019 with a 20km beach run unless you keep running directly into the waiting room of your Dee Why physio clinic! Some of the most common injuries physios see in January are New Year resolution related. There’s no reason to jump right into the deep end and risk yourself an injury. Physios recommend preparing your body with daily walks progressing in difficulty, ocean swimming and bodyweight exercises if you are just getting started.
On the flipside, if you regularly play sports and stop training over the Christmas holidays, it is natural for your body to lose some strength and physical conditioning. This can lead to a higher risk of sports related injuries if you return with full gusto straight away. Us musculoskeletal physiotherapists recommend easing your way back in after the break and focus on warming up effectively and stretching before returning to full work in order to avoid the sprains, strains and tears associated with too much too soon.
Rule 3: Be aware of your alcohol consumption
Not only is alcohol one of the leading causes of Boxing Day regret syndrome, it is also the prime reason many people suffer physical injury during the Christmas holidays. A 2018 study by Monash University analysed a number of Emergency rooms in Australia and New Zealand and identified that 9.5% of admissions to the ER came as a result of alcohol related shenanigans. It’s important to keep up water consumption with alcohol to avoid headaches and excessively painful hangovers. Alcohol, dehydration and excessive Aussie sun exposure is a quick trip to a very unpleasant couple of days. Cue the Australia Day memories from 2018. Many injuries are caused by accidents from people being overconfident on shiny new Xmas toys (not always their own). We know the trampoline looks fun, but if you haven’t backflipped in 20 years, it probably isn’t best to try after a few frothies.
Rule 4: Beware the holiday sports injuries
Don’t be afraid to run through a few stretches before bowling your first over of backyard cricket or kicking the first footy in the annual family football derby. The summer holidays are a great time for water and racquet based sports, but activities like swimming, surfing, tennis, and beach volleyball rely on the strength of the shoulder and are highly injurable without proper warming up or conditioning.
A common injury musculoskeletal physiotherapists see is ‘subacromial bursitis’ – causing severe pain when lifting or moving the arm, loss of strength which always takes a few weeks to return to painless function with the right guidance. Not the best start to the New Year. If your shoulder starts to hurt playing tennis or volleyball, try to stop overhead serving and keep your shots below parallel to the ground. Ice it up and restrict movement for the next few days if things get sore. If it’s still sore 3 days later you need to go and see someone.
….And the injuries due to inactivity
Believe it or not, musculoskeletal physiotherapists see an increase in lower back pain this time of year. People stop their gym routines and settle in for long movie marathons or sports binges on the couch for days on end in an attempt to decompress from the stress of a long year. Sitting in a slumped position for long periods of time puts increased pressure on our lower backs, putting you at increased risk of low back pain. Our bodies aren’t made to be sitting for too long! Get up and move about for at least two minutes every 20-30 minutes, if you’re driving long distances make sure to stop every two hours and walk around. Changing your posture regularly has been shown improve comfort and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Beaches Sports Physio team and remember that the best Christmas present you can get yourself and family is your health.