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A Doctor’s Advice on Staying Injury-Free this Spring

The eroding muscles of age let your painful bones meet—my X-ray. Courtesy of George Capsis.

By Peter D. McCann, MD

Springtime is finally here, and it feels a lot different this year. For the first time in three years, the transition out of winter feels joyous and hopeful, as life begins to resemble the normal for which we had been waiting so long.

There are more opportunities to travel, gather with friends and family, and spend time outdoors enjoying our beautiful city. It is because we have been vigilant as New Yorkers that we are finally able to witness the city coming back to what it was before the pandemic, and it’s a great reminder to cherish the time we have with our loved ones. We have all learned to never again take simple pleasures in life for granted.

One important way we can be sure to take full advantage of each day we have this spring is to avoid unnecessary injury. Many of us have spent the last two years working from home and maybe more time than we would like to admit on the couch binging on TV shows. The arrival of warm weather and loosened health restrictions means more hours a day to enjoy being active both inside and outside. Maybe you are looking forward to chasing your kids around the park, going for a run with your dog, shooting hoops with friends, or even tackling spring cleaning.

Regardless of your reason, as we all start to move around more, here are some helpful tips to avoid being sidelined by an injury:

Pace yourself: remember that overdoing it—be it trying a new workout routine or moving furniture around your apartment—is a major cause of injury. Don’t rush through any of it and take regular breaks.

Always start slowly, allow your body to warm up, and avoid putting a sudden strain on your muscles and joints.

Keep your posture in mind and try to maintain proper form while avoiding uncomfortable positions and movements.

Avoid repetitive motions: try to steer clear of doing the same task excessively to reduce the risk of an overuse injury. Giving fatigued muscles a rest will go a long way.

Know your limits: did you know that many injuries are caused by accidental falls? If you don’t have the proper training or equipment to perform certain tasks, don’t do them. Safety during any physical activity should be your top priority.

However, life is unpredictable and if you do manage to hurt yourself, it is important to know what to do. For moderate sprains and strains, you can treat the injury at home using the R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This technique can reduce pain and swelling for up to 72 hours after the injury and can help speed up recovery.

 

If you are concerned that your injury may be more serious, you should contact a doctor, ideally one who specializes in orthopedics or sports medicine. At Lenox Health Greenwich Village, part of Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute, we have a multidisciplinary team of fellowship-trained specialists offering a full range of services for illnesses and injuries affecting the neck and lower back, shoulders, elbows, knees, ankles and feet. Whether you need emergency care, imaging services, a comprehensive recovery plan, or surgery, we are here to help.

It doesn’t take much to cause a sprain, injure a joint, pull a tendon, pinch a nerve or even break a bone, so as you get back to your favorite activities this spring, don’t let preventable and treatable injuries slow you down and keep you from living life to the fullest this season. Take proper precautions, take care of your body and get medical help when necessary.

Peter D. McCann, MD, is Director of Orthopedic Strategic Initiatives at Lenox Health Greenwich Village and a Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. Appointments can be made by calling (646) 665-6784

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