A Milestone – Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 300
During the pandemic, most people are not moving around as much as they used to. Lots of sitting. Then, knowing one’s body needs exercise, they get out and overdo. They end up stiff and sore, and then end up putting off exercise once again. So I’ve written down some ways to identify the problem and then break this pattern. I suggest you print out the following information. You never know when you will need it.
Injuries, Symptoms, and Treatment
The chances for injuries while practicing Tai Chi are very small. If you stay in your body, (meaning that your awareness is on the activity you are engaged in at the time), you will almost never suffer accidents. If your mind wanders or is distracted, you can suffer injury.
The first rule of staying healthy in sports is not to overdo. Know yourself, don’t try and compare yourself with others, feel what you are doing from the inside, make a little progress daily: these are all important to staying accident free. Also, being able to read the signals the body sends is very important. Let’s look at the most common.
Note: I am not a medical doctor. This advice comes from research and my own experiences.
This is quite common when doing an activity you haven’t done before or when doing more than you usually do. The feeling is caused by lactic acid build up as a result of muscles having worked hard and the body not being able to get rid of the waste by-products of energy exertion. Rest is the most common way to deal with this situation. Massage is another. In any case, when the work or exercise is done, there is a dull ache, which persists for a while and goes away by itself. This is to be expected.
Sharp, shooting pain
This is a sure sign that something is wrong. As you are exercising you experience a sharp, shooting pain that stops when you stop. This means that the particular movement could cause damage if you persist. The body is saying, Don’t do that any more! The remedy for this is to stop and examine what you are doing, and how you are doing the movement. Try again and if the sensation comes again, stop.
Pops, Snaps, Cracks
These sounds will always indicate an injury that will need medical care. Fractures, breaks, and torn cartilage are not something to mess around with. Immediately get help.
Strains and Sprains
These are the most common types of injuries that you might receive in martial arts practice. You can usually take care of them yourself. Fractures and breaks must be attended to by trained health care workers.
Strains are tears in muscles or tendons (what attaches muscles to bones). They can be very small and quick to heal or large and slow to heal. Sprains are tears in ligaments (attaches bone to bone). Tendons and ligaments don’t have a good blood supply so their ability to heal is slowed. Almost any exercise will produce micro-tears in your muscles and connective tissue. This is normal and in the course of daily life, you will get the rest your body needs to repair any normal damage. The more flexible your body is, the less likely tears are, so you must stretch regularly, and more so before any amount of extra load you place on yourself.
When you receive a strain or sprain, your body will immediately start to deal with it. This is called the inflammation response and can be recognized by four primary symptoms:
If an area is especially painful when you stretch, but painless when put through passive movement (that is when someone does the movement for you) you will probably be able to treat the strain or sprain yourself.
Swelling occurs because the sprain or strain tears capillaries, and besides the small amount of blood that is released during the stress, the body sends extra to help heal the site. Local hormone-like chemicals are produced that increase the activity of pain receptors so you will be less likely to further injure the site. The fluid also acts to immobilize the site, bringing the feeling of stiffness and inflexibility.
As the body moves to heal the injured site, your metabolism increases and you will feel warmth.
Redness will be visible in the more severe strains and sprains, less so in the minor ones. Redness indicates significantly increased blood flow.
Whenever you have a minor injury, remember the word RICE. This indicates the best way to treat yourself and speed the healing response of the body. Remember, only nature can heal, but we can be of assistance and make the job easier for our dear Mother Nature. Start your treatment immediately!
As soon as possible, get off and stay off the injury. Your body needs time to heal.
Ice should be used every three to four hours for the first 24 to 48 hours. It chills the affected area so that the tissues constrict and squeeze out swelling like a sponge. When you remove the ice, fresh blood returns to the site with oxygen and other materials for repair. Ice also decreases the nerve impulses to the brain so you do not experience as much pain. Ice is generally applied for periods of from five minutes to 30 minutes at a time. Wrap an ice source (can be ice or frozen vegetables, or a commercially made cold product) in a towel to keep it from being too cold.
Compression helps to inhibit swelling, and helps to immobilize the area. Wrap with an Ace bandage or other compression bandage, being careful not to wrap too tightly or you might restrict the circulation.
Try to keep the area above your heart, and do not put weight on it for one to four days. This helps drain the fluids out of the injured site, and also helps to limit the internal bleeding from the injury.
Most physical therapists only use heat during the rehabilitation phase of healing. In the early phases, heat can increase swelling and retard healing. So, be careful and don’t be in a rush to apply heat. When you do, use moist heat so as not to increase inflammation.
So, go slow and be patient. Allow the body plenty of time to heal and come back gradually, not going immediately to the level of practice you were doing before the injury. Work up to it. And remember to treat the injury as soon as possible.