March Madness bracketBetween the NCAA college basketball tournament, increasing sunlight and warming weather, March creates a certain madness in all of us.

We jump from our winter couches and throw ourselves into a spring fever of activities—from shooting hoops and scoring home runs to digging up gardens and trimming trees.

Because we often focus these activities in brief but intense periods, it’s no wonder “weekend warriors” end up waking up sore and injured come Monday.

Weekend Warrior Injuries

While becoming more engaged in physical activity is a good thing, your body may not be as enthusiastic as the calendar says it should be.

“We often see weekend warrior injuries stemming from soccer, basketball, running, baseball and, oddly, spring yardwork,” says Catherine Fetters, a physical therapist with Adventist Health Physical Therapy in Portland, Oregon. The most common sports injuries come from contact with other players.

Areas of the body most commonly injured include:

  • Ankles and heels
  • Knees
  • Shoulders and elbows
  • Fingers
  • Backs

Four Ways to Prevent a Painful Monday

warm up dynamically to reduce injuryFortunately, there are ways to help prevent your weekend play becoming a Monday pain. Fetters offers several habits you can start now that will help your body handle the extra activities you want to enjoy this spring:

  • Warm up dynamically: “Dynamic stretching takes your body through a progressively greater range of motion by using momentum of the body part but is not held for any length of time,” explains Fetters.
  • Get specific: Every sport and activity uses your body in a certain way. Do some drills during the week that prepare your body for your specific weekend plans. The best drills prepare all of you—your mind, your nervous system and your body.
  • Find your balance: Balance and agility activities like standing on one leg or doing yoga are easy to include in your everyday life and will help you be ready on the court, on the field and even in the backyard.
  • Cool off: Take a few minutes to lower your activity level so your heartrate can return slowly to normal. For example, after running around the soccer field, walk a lap or two before moving into light stretching.

When the Weekend Hurts

Even with the best prevention, injuries can happen. “If an injury occurs, it’s important to not ‘play through the pain,’” advises Fetters. Take the time to inspect the injury and seek medical attention if you have any concern about a fracture or instability.

If your injury is minor enough to be managed at home, you may find yourself wondering which is better—hot or cold treatment.

Ice can reduce pain and swelling, but it slows your body’s natural inflammatory process, which mobilizes your body to respond to your injury and start healing it. Heat, on the other hand, can increase pain and swelling in injuries while improving circulation.

When to Ice, When to Heat

So, ice or heat? The answer may be both.

“For the first 48 to 72 hours, ice can be your friend,” Fetters explains. After you’ve cleared the first two or three days, switching to heat from a heating pad or hot bath may help with pain and speed healing.

As time goes on, you may find you need more than at-home care. The health care team at Aspire Orthopedic Institute and Adventist Health Physical Therapy can work with you to get you back to warrior status and enjoying your favorite activities once again.

Dealing with an injury that needs more that ice or heat? Call our Aspire Orthopedics team at 503-261-6961 in Portland, OR or 509-527-8060 in Walla Walla, WA.