The variegated songs of the mockingbird. The crack of the bat on the baseball diamond. The screaming of little children at play in the community pool. Wherever we turn, the sounds of summer surround us in a joyful uplifting cacophony. Summertime may mean barbecue and it may mean the beach, but it also means outdoor activities that we haven’t engaged in for much of the year such as hiking, biking, volleyball, and tennis. If we want to enjoy a summer full of fun, it’s important to do some preparation to minimize the risk of physical injury and help make sure we can do all the things we want to do. Although the possibility of injury to muscles, tendons, and ligaments is inherent in all physical activity, there are many steps we can take to keep our musculoskeletal system healthy and functioning at peak capacity.
Two main courses of action involve regular stretching and regularly doing a dynamic warm-up. Stretching, done properly, wakes up our joints and musculoskeletal soft tissues and prepares our bodies for physical work. Stretching basically means lengthening, and when you stretch you’re encouraging the major muscles of your back and legs to gradually achieve their greatest length. When you stretch, you’re primarily focusing on the hamstrings, calf muscles, quadriceps, and erector muscles of your back.
Stretching is done gently, slowly, and with the utmost attention. It’s important to remember that if you’re not fully focused, you may strain a muscle by an inadvertent sudden movement or by overstretching. Stretching is a Zen-type activity and requires concentration and mindfulness. Your stretching session could take 10 or 20 minutes, depending on your overall level of flexibility. When you’re done, the blood supply to all your muscles has increased and the contractile mechanisms of your major muscle groups have lengthened. As a result, you’re ready to engage in vigorous physical activity and withstand sudden starts and stops while minimizing the risk of unexpected damage.
The importance of doing a dynamic warm-up has become increasingly recognized in the last decade and these preparatory activities have gained in prominence and become increasingly popular. Dynamic warm-ups engage your muscles, joints, and associated soft tissues in low-level movements that involve actual physical work. In a sense, dynamic warm-ups are training sessions so your body will learn what’s required when larger mechanical forces come into play, such as acceleration and deceleration and the need to successfully counter the force of gravity.
Your dynamic warm-up is done right after your stretching session. Numerous activities are available and part of the interest and fun of a dynamic warm-up is the wide variety of choices. Wednesday’s program might be substantially different from that done on Monday, and Friday’s activities might be completely different from what you’ve done earlier in the week. Dynamic warm-up activities include torso twists, arm circles, lunges, squats, and light jogging. Your dynamic warm-up session could take 10 minutes. When you’re done, you’re prepared to fully enjoy your summertime games and outdoor exercise.
Regular chiropractic care is a year-long activity that is especially valuable during the summer months. The summer weather brings us outdoors where we can run, jump, ride, skate, and play ball with abandon. We’d like to make sure we can do all these things with a minimum risk of injury. Unexpected back and neck strains and sprains slow us down and interfere with what we want to do. The best policy is to do what we can to avoid these problems in the first place.
A primary solution is to make sure we’re getting regular chiropractic care. By detecting and correcting spinal misalignments, sources of nerve irritation that interfere with musculoskeletal function, regular chiropractic care optimizes our body’s mechanical performance. Regular chiropractic care helps keep our spine and nerve system in good working order so we can participate fully in our summer exercises and games and enjoy ourselves throughout the season. In this way, regular chiropractic care is a key component of our program for summer-long fun.
- Johnson CD, et al: The relationship of core strength and activation and performance on three functional movement screens. J Strength Cond Res 2017 Apr 18. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001943. [Epub ahead of print]
- Shamsi MB, et al: Comparing core stability and traditional trunk exercise on chronic low back pain patients using three functional lumbopelvic stability tests. Physiother Theory Pract 31(2):89-98, 2015
- Coulombe BJ, et al: Core Stability Exercise Versus General Exercise for Chronic Low Back Pain. J Athl Train 52(1):71-72, 2017