Workout injuries are all too common. Whether it’s an injury to your foot, knee, hand, or neck, the body is more susceptible to specific tweaks and accidents the more you use it on a daily basis. While adhering to a workout regimen, as well as switching that regimen up every now and again, is crucial, it’s even more imperative to be mindful of your body as you are completing these routines.
The mindful aspect of working out and increasing your physical fitness can often get lost in the quest to lose weight, build muscle or look good naked. While zoning out can be a comfortable realm for you when you’re lifting or running, it can potentially and unknowingly set your body up for injuries just from the sheer lack of paying attention. Here are some key, integral ways you can protect your neck and back to prevent injuries.
Your posture informs so much of your body. According to a study that links the importance of exercise and realignment of the spine - your knees, hips and even feet are all directly connected to proper posture. You are prone to injury, especially in the neck and lower back, when lifting heavy weights by using overexertion, sudden movements or twisting to use momentum to aid you. This can cause microscopic tears. Ensure you are being mindful of how you are holding your body, no quick movements, and remain flat-footed with abs engaged. Balance in your center of gravity before each rep of whatever movement you are completing.
Use your body properly
No matter how long you’ve been working out or how often, you can always learn something about technique and strategy when it comes to different physical activities. How you hold your hands, use your arms and stand when you are playing golf is much different than when you are practicing Tai Chi. Your body placement when you run versus when you cycle differs greatly. Being aware of this will help how your body can and will adjust to these differences and how that could lead to neck or back injuries if you aren’t familiar with best practices.
Warm up/Cool down
Your body needs this time to be activated and rest before and after a workout. Even if your workout of choice is a simple walk - some upper body twists, lower body stretches and shoulder rolls to increase your heart rate and engage your body in the necessary flexibility it may need is vital. So many neck and back injuries are the result of improperly warming up or cooling down. Or most often, forfeiting that entire process to begin with. Taking 2-5 minutes to ensure this is done before and after each workout can be the difference between seriously tweaking or injuring your neck or back.
Increased mobility of the neck
While the importance of posture is essential to the overall framework of your body, improving the mobility and flexibility of the neck is just as crucial. What you may not realize is that there are ways to do this even when you aren’t working out. The neck is profoundly impacted by how you sit at work, how you sleep at night and even how you walk. These type of precautions to prevent any weird neck tweaks or spasms can make a difference. Incorporate some yoga neck stretches into your nightly routine before you go to bed. Stretch your head side to side and front to back a few times before gently looking over your shoulder on each side and gently holding it for a few seconds. At the first tinge of pain or discomfort, get an ice pack for your neck.
Protect your neck and back while traveling
So much of what helps prevent fitness injuries is what you do when you aren’t working out. Long bouts of travel in a plane or a car can be terrible for your posture, muscles, and overall alignment. Do your best to remain in neutral and protective positions while you are traveling. Carry a neck pillow for long journeys and also consider getting a seat cushion to prevent your hips or back from misaligning during hours of travel.
With all of these tips and tricks, the likelihood that you will sustain a difficult injury to your neck or back can be greatly diminished. Protect and be mindful of your body, even when you aren’t working out.