Tag: training

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Stretching won’t make your muscles stretchy

Stretching doesn’t work the way we think it does. At all. If you’ve ever spent your time gritting your teeth, pulling your arms or legs or (eek) neck into weird and wonderful positions to feel that pull, before noticing that a few hours later they’re back to where they were before, you’ll know that stretching doesn’t make your muscles stretchy. To understand why stretching isn’t the key to flexibility, we first have to understand a bit more about how and why our muscles stretch in the first place.

All humans have a reflex in our nervous system called the myotatic reflex. Believe it or not- you’ve probably had this tested without even knowing it. It’s the one we activate when we use a reflex hammer to hit just below your knee which makes your leg jump, or the one just above the elbow which does the same to your arm.

stretch muscle reflex stretchy injury knee pain relief chiropractic chiropractor education blog physiotherapy physiotherapist health rehabilitation painful sports injury training fitness emsworth chichester hampshire sussex
The C6/7 reflex

This reflex is the body’s pre-programmed response to a stretch stimulus in the muscle. When the muscle is stretched (as in when hit by the reflex hammer), an impulse is sent to the spinal cord to contract that muscle (and relax the muscle that works in opposition to it), causing the limb being tested to jump. These reflexes are what are called “monosynaptic” as there is only one junction for any signal to pass through before the body sends a response (the message going in->junction->message coming back happens in the spinal cord, bypassing the brain to make sure the response happens quickly) Think how rapidly your knee jumps when it’s hit by the reflex hammer- it’s usually just 1-2 milliseconds before the body responds.

We use these tests in clinic to check the integrity of your spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system, and they can be vital in helping us identify neuromuscular conditions. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. You might be wondering what purpose these reflexes have? Well, one of their most important functions is to prevent us from tearing our muscles/tendons/ligaments. Let’s look at the patella reflex to demonstrate this:

The patellar tendon is tapped just below the knee, which puts a rapid stretch into the tendon which attaches to your quadriceps muscle (the muscle in the front of your thigh). Muscle spindles (sensory receptors that pick up changes in the length of the muscle) pick up on this rapid increase in the length of the muscle, and very quickly send a message to contract your quadriceps in order to stop the muscle or tendon from over-stretching and causing damage. What happens when your quadricep contracts? Your lower leg comes flying up! If it doesn’t, it could indicate an underlying condition or disease affecting your muscles and nerves (which is why we always test them in clinic!)

What else do reflexes do? Well, they also stop us from falling over all the time. Stand up for a second. Now lean over. As far over to one side as you can go. What happens? The muscles on the opposite side to the lean become stretched, and that reflex is activated again, telling those muscles to contract in order to correct your posture and stop you toppling over. Now, this is a more obvious demonstration of how reflexes maintain our posture, and these postural corrections are generally carried out subconsciously (so we don’t spend all day feeling like we’re going to fall over!) It’s one of those things that we notice more when it stops working.

So what do reflexes have to do with stretching my tight muscles?

When we activate stretch receptors in the muscle, the message the body receives is to contract that muscle to prevent overstretch. So the usual static stretching that we do (for example when we bring our foot up behind us and grab on to it to stretch our quadriceps) puts our conscious and subconscious brain into war against each other. You’re consciously grabbing that foot to pull that muscle into a stretched position, and your stretch reflex (the subconscious brain) is automatically kicking in (as reflexes do) saying “No!” and tries to stop you from over-stretching and causing yourself an injury. What do we tend to do in this situation? Most people say “oooh that’s tight!” and promptly pull harder… Static stretching has actually been shown to decrease strength and athletic performance, while failing to reduce risk of injury to any significant degree.

Why does stretching feel so good then?

There are a few reasons why stretching might make you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

One: If you continually statically stretch your muscles, you can cause that stretch reflex to become less active. This can mean the muscles do lengthen, but only for a little while. Give it an hour or two for that reflex to go back to normal and the muscles will tighten back up again. This can cause problems for athletes- static stretching means the muscle is unable to contract properly because those muscle spindles aren’t functioning right. There’s plenty of research out there to show that static stretching before exercise can reduce your muscle strength, power, performance and joint stability.

Two: The more we stretch, the better we’re able to tolerate the sensation of “pulling” in our muscles. Yep, we’ve all said it “Ooooh, that’s a good stretch!” That temporary lengthening and release does feel good, but not for long.

Three: Pull a muscle or tendon enough, and you’ll begin to stretch your ligaments. Ligaments can, over time, then become stretched out to the point where they’re unable to function properly, resulting in joints that move too much, and are unstable. When ligaments get to this point, they might never regain their original length and strength.

stretch muscle reflex stretchy injury knee pain relief chiropractic chiropractor education blog physiotherapy physiotherapist health rehabilitation painful sports injury training fitness emsworth chichester hampshire sussex stretching
Someone tell him to stop…

Stretching- Will it get you out of pain?

In a nutshell, no. The nervous system rules the road. It’s totally in charge of everything that we do. If you’ve had treatment with me, you’ve probably heard me talk about the reasons why the brain can cause our joints to stiffen and feel like they’re “locked up”. It’s your brain’s way of stabilising an area that it perceives to be at risk of injury (whether that perception is founded in fact or fiction!) So on a very fundamental level, if your brain still perceives there’s an issue in that area, no amount of pulling on your muscles is going to change that. Equally,if the muscle is tight and sore because there’s a joint somewhere that’s misbehaving and preventing the muscle from functioning as it should, then stretching isn’t going to do much for that problem.

stretch muscle reflex stretchy injury knee pain relief chiropractic chiropractor education blog physiotherapy physiotherapist health rehabilitation painful sports injury training fitness emsworth chichester hampshire sussex stretching

The process that tells us how tense our muscles should be at rest (known as “resting muscle tone”) is called the alpha-gamma feedback loop and it’s a lot more intelligent than we give it credit for when we’re yanking on our body to get it to stretch. In order to reset an over-enthusiastic resting muscle tone, we need slow, controlled movement which provides vital sensory feedback, allowing this system to reset itself. This makes it fairly clear that pulling our muscles into, or beyond, their stretch capacity does little other than provide a temporary increase in muscle length which then rebounds when those muscle spindles reset, giving you little more than temporary relief from pain and probably serving to prolong your discomfort by making your muscles tighter overall.

So how do we make muscles stretchy without stretching?

First we have to look at what’s causing the muscle tension in the first place. Let’s look at the hip joint as an example. It’s got anywhere between 170 to 200 degrees of flexion and 40-60 degrees of extension, so is well over the 180 degrees needed to do the splits. So aside from structural changes in the hip joint, is mainly restriction in the soft tissues that stops most of us from being able to pop the splits whenever we fancy. No amount of stretching or “bouncing” into the splits is going to get you there- for whatever reason, the muscles you need to do the splits are activating way before their supposed maximum load and your brain is telling those muscle spindles to stop before you hurt yourself.

We have to stop thinking that we can teach our muscles anything. Our muscles don’t call the shots- our brain does. If a muscle gets tight, it’s because the brain is telling it to contract. So if stretching isn’t the answer, what is?

  1. Chiropractic care to correct the cause of the problem- We find, assess, diagnose and treat the underlying reason for the muscle tension. If you don’t know why they’re tight, how can you possibly get them better?
  2. Foam rolling. It’s not just rolling about on the floor (although that helps!) Foam rolling activates a different receptor in the muscle (called the Golgi Tendon Organs) which sit at the junction between your muscles and tendons. When we foam roller correctly, we stimulate these GTO’s which encourage the muscle spindle activity to calm down, helping to decrease muscle tension, reduce pain and improve function.
  3. Functional movement. Simply put, warm up based on movements you actually do in real life. How often do you actually grab your neck and pull it into a weird angle in real life? Not often. If you’re a runner, instead of doing straddle-stretches or the good old foot-behind-your-bum-and-pull stretch for the quads, try lunges, high knees and skipping instead to replicate the movement you’re going to do.

So there you have it. Stretching tight muscle tissue will only make it tighter. Find and correct the reason for the tension and enjoy super-supple muscles instead!

Kinesiology taping for pain- how does it work?

Kinesiology tape has become massively popular over the past few years, gracing the torsos of Olympic athletes and sportspeople around the world- and whilst there are conflicting messages coming from the research around it, the tape appears to show promise for a range of issues.  A recent review showed that there was moderate evidence to support the use of tape to reduce pain, so let’s look at how tape can help.

Properties of kinesiology tape

    • 100% cotton, latex free tape
    • Medical grade acrylic adhesive which is heat sensitive allowing the tape to stick to the skin
    • The thickness, weight and elasticity of the tape is approximately that of skin, so most people can tolerate the tape without issue
    • Allows for free movement and does not restrict movement like other tapes may
    • The elastic properties provide support and reduce muscle fatigue

Where some tapes are stretched out to maximum capacity before being applied, kinesiology tape is less effective when fully stretched out- in fact, mastering the art of how much stretch to apply is one of the main skills to learn when using tape.

The risks of using tape are minimal, and whilst the research surrounding tape is still in its infancy, we can use it safely in clinic knowing that we’re not causing any harm and are instead likely to see great results which will help contribute further to the use of kinesiology taping.

How taping works to reduce pain

kinesiology taping pregnancy pain lymphatic fluid kinesiotape rocktape sporttape fitness health exercise training running injury sports fit health runner run sprint gym Emsworth Hampshire chiropractic chiropractor Philippa Oakley Acorn Health
More space = happy structures!

When taping for pain, inflammation, swelling or oedema, we use a technique called “space correction”. This does what it says on the tin- creates more space directly above an area of pain, inflammation, swelling or fluid build up, which helps decrease pressure by lifting the skin away from the fascia.

This has a number of effects:

  1. Decreased pressure alleviates the irritation on chemical receptors in the underlying structures, thus decreasing pain
  2. Increased circulation may occur in the area, allowing for increased removal of cells or fluids that can build up during the inflammatory process
  3. Stimulating mechanoreceptors (sensory receptors in our skin that pick up pressure or distortion) can help decrease pain

The initial benefits are reducing inflammation and pain, but there are thought to be neurological benefits

too- when the tape is placed over tight muscles, it appears to reduce their response to being stretched, helping to make them feel less sore and painful. When applied over weak or injured tissues, the feedback these tissues send to the brain is altered and improved, which can help the body to stabilise the area.  This is how we can then move on to use the tape for fascial correction.

In some cases, as with ankle inversion injuries (rolling over on the ankle), there is an imminent risk of further injury as the ligaments in the muscle have been stretched out and therefore aren’t able to stabilise the joint as effectively as usual. In this case, the patient’s initial injury was over 7 days ago so we have used a fan application to encourage lymphatic flow but also applied a light-stretch support around the lateral part of the foot to help stablise the injured ligaments.

Lymphatic fan taping helps to reduce fluid build-up by directing lymph fluid towards a less-congested lymphatic pathway and lymph nodes. We use the anchor of the tape to indicate where we want the lymph to flow, much like directing traffic! Whilst this is an advanced taping technique and one that would be applied by your practitioner, it demonstrates the myriad uses of kinesiology taping perfectly and shows how effective it can be in helping reduce inflammation and aid recovery at a cellular level.

Take home notes:

There isn’t a barrage of research to support the use of kinesiology tape, the papers that are available show positive and encouraging results. Every new treatment modality has to start somewhere, after all!

kinesiology taping pregnancy pain lymphatic fluid kinesiotape rocktape sporttape fitness health exercise training running injury sports fit health runner run sprint gym Emsworth Hampshire chiropractic chiropractor Philippa Oakley Acorn Health(Think of Louis Pasteur testing out his Rabies vaccine on a 9 year old. Sounds nuts now, but that’s where most great ideas starts from- somebody going “I wonder if….?”) 

Much like any treatment, there will be an element of placebo involved, but studies like this and this have shown that the effects of kinesiology tape can’t be reproduced by placebo taping.

Simply put, the mechanisms and understanding behind how and why kinesiology tape works are grounded in scientific thinking and understanding. It’s a safe, low risk, effective way to help your body towards recovery, and whilst it’s no replacement for treatment, rehabilitation and injury management, it helps to put some of the power of recovery back into your hands.

NB: Whilst tape can be applied by anyone, it is important to have the issue diagnosed by an appropriately qualified healthcare or medical professional prior to using kinesiotape or allowing someone else to apply it. As with any form of treatment, you want to ensure the treatment is appropriate for the issue and eliminate any other underlying issues which may mean taping is inappropriate.

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Two reasons why your back still hurts…

Why do so many of us have back pain?

We (as a society) throw huge amounts of money at back pain. There’s new gadgets, research, more effective drugs, better surgeries and dozens more practitioners out there all touting to be the next big thing in curing back pain, yet back pain remains as prevalent as it ever was. In fact, it seems to be getting worse.

So why is it that back pain is still such an issue?

  1. Everyone is different. Gosh, wasn’t that a groundbreaking statement. Yes, well, forgive me for stating the obvious but, it’s true. If we treated your back pain the same way we treat everyone else’s, we’re not going to get very far, as unfortunately everyone’s backs behave differently (and misbehave differently!) That’s why all of these treatment that work for everyone else don’t necessarily work for you- because your back is different to theirs and you need to find the approach that works for you!  P.S. This is why whenever someone asks me if I get bored “cracking backs all day” I can answer with a resounding NO! a) Because I don’t “crack backs” and b) because I have to not only work out what’s going on and diagnose it correctly but also work out how best to treat it based on what’s happening and what you want! It’s not quite as simple as handing over a pill and sending you out the door. Blimey, how boring would that be!
  2. We’re treating it far too literally.
    This is the big one! So many treatments out there focus on treating the area of pain as though that’s the cause of the pain. Pain in the lower back, treat the lower back. Monkey see, monkey do. Do you follow? Well, there’s two problems there. Firstly, if it was that simple to treat back pain, it wouldn’t be such a massive problem. Secondly, if we isolate our treatment and just focus on the spine, we are ignoring everything the spine connects to (and you don’t need a genius to tell you that the spine connects to everything!) As such, treating just one thing in the giant jigsaw that is your back pain is going to end up in tears and a lot of wasted time (and money). Of course we need to treat the site of pain (duh, that’s where it hurts!) but pain in itself only tells us there’s a problem, not where the problem is or what it is. Treating the site of the pain is lazy- we need to look at everything inside your body that impacts on the area of pain and could, as a result, be affecting it. Then, we need to look at everything outside your body (like your job, hobbies, environment) and see if that’s having an impact too!

    back pain diagnosis treatment Rolf Rolfing neck pain treatment Hampshire Emsworth chiropractor chiropractic massage therapy osteopath physiotherapy
    Image source: siguy.ca

    As a really simple demonstration of this, do me a favour- Google “Cervicogenic headache.” Done it? What does it say? That it’s pain referred to the head from structures (i.e. soft tissues and joints) in the neck. So as you see, you could take a paracetamol or sit with an icepack on your forehead but as this isn’t the source of the pain, it’s not going to do much good in the long term. A good clinician needs to look further afield to find out what’s actually causing that pain.

    Have a look at the image below- see how forward head carriage can cause dysfunction in your back and thoracic extensors?! What a waste of time it would be just treating the back and not addressing the forward head carriage (i.e. the issue that’s actually causing the pain!)

    back pain diagnosis treatment Rolf Rolfing neck pain treatment Hampshire Emsworth chiropractor chiropractic massage therapy osteopath physiotherapy
    Image source: fixtheneck.com

So if back pain is really so tricky to treat, what can we really do about it? Here’s two super simple tips.

Feet back pain chiropractic chiropractor osteopath physiotherapy massage back pain neck pain treatment injury recovery Hampshire Emsworth Chichester Sussex1) Get in touch with mother nature. No, we don’t mean making skirts out of hemp and running naked through the wilderness (although feel free, if that’s your thing). We mean take your shoes and socks off and feel the ground.

The nerves in your lower back run all the way down to your feet for a reason! Your feet provide feedback to your brain that not only tells your brain where you are in space, but they also provide invaluable feedback to help stabilise your body. Stick some bulky trainers on to stop your feet from being able to feel the ground and those feedback signals sent to your brain get confused, which leads to instability. When the brain feels unsafe, or unstable, it’s going to make things hurt and reduce the amount of movement in the area.

(While we’re on the subject, where most people go wrong is that at this point, right when they have less movement, they strain against it to push the body beyond that threshold. As soon as you go beyond where your body is happy to go, the body has a habit of going into shutdown- it tenses up and produces pain to stop you from doing it again!)

Simply put- the more skin in touch with the ground, the more sensory input your brain gets, which it in turn feeds forward to your spine, giving you more stability and in turn reducing pain.

2) Breathe!
You’d think, given it’s something you’ve been doing your whole life, thatPosture Chiropractic work desk office neck pain injury help health pain back pain chiropractor Hampshire Emsworth Fareham Havant Osteopath Osteopathy Chiropractic Health Fitness Exercise Sport you’d know how to breathe by now. But I bet you don’t! Do yourself a favour- for the next 24 hours, try and pay attention to how you’re breathing when you’re moving. My bet is that you hold your breath when you’re performing dynamic movements. Why? Read on, dear friends and all shall be made clear.

Breathing is closely related to spinal stability. If you think of your body as a barrel, the diaphragm is the top, and the pelvic floor the bottom. The diaphragm regulates our intra-abdominal pressure and contributes massively to our spinal stability. So when our spine is unstable and weak, we hold our breath to perform movements. This is an ill-informed attempt by our brain to increase our intra-adnominal pressure and maintain spinal stability because it’s worried that if we don’t, we’ll become unstable and get injured. Pull that belly button in towards your spine and breathe OUT as you perform dynamic movements- this will engage the good ol’ core musculature and take the pressure of your diaphragm and stop relying on the diaphragm alone to provide spinal stability. 24 hours, focusing on your breathing, that’s all I ask. Being mindful and aware is key to changing your habits.

In a nutshell,  part of your treatment programme is going to involve teaching you how to breathe!

So there you have it!

Now you understand why back pain can be such a nuisance to treat. Fortunately, you’ve got those two simple steps to reducing your back pain. Doesn’t that sound like a great catchphrase?! Honestly though, if I could give one (okay, two) pieces of advice to every person I see in clinic, it would be those. Create some healthy habits to help your spine and I guarantee you’ll see an improvement.

Until next time…

Philippa Oakley
Chiropractor

Marathon Ready Workshops

This year we have hosted two popular running workshops with a twist on our popular “Running without pain” workshop concentrating on marathon training, injury prevention and recovery and increasing your training load.

Thank you to The Run Company for letting us take over your shop for those evenings!

There are some big races in every runner’s diary at this time of year, including the largest local marathon taking place in June and international races coming up in the Autumn. Nothing’s more disappointing than picking up an injury just a few days before the big event, so in this workshop, we took our guests through the top prevention steps everyone needs to know to prevent injury, helping you spend more time on the road and less in rehab.

We covered everything from overtraining to optimum performance tips as well as advice on the all-important recovery period, and an opportunity to speak to Philippa, Acorn Healths principle Chiropractor, one-on-one after the event for any specific questions or advice.

We had an Ultra-marathoner and a Tough Mudder runner who had specific questions on nutrition and keeping up their energy levels. We also talked to a few ladies who are looking to improve their stride to reduce expelling unnecessary energy, and a 10K runner interested in injury prevention. We also had a lady interested in increasing her walking to running without causing serious injury and a gentleman looking for information on running winter marathons.

Our events are never a dull affair, and all are encouraged to get involved and ask questions throughout the talk. We left the first event thinking about stocking up on jaffa cakes and jelly beans and the last one thinking about taking a nap! If you are interested in coming to one of our events please subscribe to Facebook events here or sign up to our newsletters here.

Book in for your pre-race MOT appointment here so we can get those backs mobilised, ribs moving freely to increase your lung expansion and thus your muscle moment and improve your hip flexion and extension for a better stride.

Your body is an intricate machine and just like any machine, things can go wrong from time to time. If you are in pain, it’s your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t right. Listen to it.

You may also be interested in:

Marathon Ready Resource

Understanding Pain Resource

Running without Pain Resource

Tennis player serve back extend injury Hampshire Emsworth Chiropractic sports injury exercise fitness core strength flexibility stamina

Tennis: Injury prevention and performance

Tennis is without doubt one of the most popular summer sports around- both social and an effective form of exercise (plus, if tennis means Wimbledon that also means strawberries and Pimms- can’t go wrong there!)

As a recreational activity, tennis players do subject their bodies to stresses through ballistic movements and repetitive motions. Whilst these often occur at specific parts of the body (tennis elbow, we’re thinking of you here) these can be the catalyst for more widespread challenges, because dysfunction in one joint can impact significantly on others.Tennis player serve back extend injury Hampshire Emsworth Chiropractic sports injury exercise fitness core strength flexibility stamina

The most common injury we tend to associate with tennis is, of course, tennis elbow (read about that here), but the ankle, hip, lower back and shoulder are also susceptible to injury, be it tendon injuries, plantar fasciitis or muscle tears. Stress fractures (caused by repetitive loading of the upper extremity) are also widely reported, and there are even rare vascular injuries reported, likely due to the compression of the large vessels in the armpit whilst serving.
Tennis is physically demanding with lots of sprinting, flexion, rotation, extension and lateral bending of the spine and related joints, and so a certain level of fitness is critical to help withstand the repetitive stop-start movements, bending, twisting and rotation. When we see a tennis player in clinic we also have to consider the dominant side of the person, as these repetitive motions can lead to one-sided disorders. In fact, when looking at a tennis player it is often easy to spot
whether they are left- or right-handed simply by looking at muscle tone and size!

Let’s talk technical tennis!

The ankle is often injured in tennis due to shearing forces that occur at the subtalar joints. The plant-pivot action often seen in tennis players causes translational distortions throughout the rest of the body, not to mention repetitive shock absorption, and in turn these lead to dysfunction both locally and in more widespread joints and tissues due to compensatory changes. For example- repetitive shear forces through the ankle can cause altered gait biomechanics, which in turn can compromise the stability of the pelvis and the lower back, leaving the player with not only an ankle injury, but also potentially other problems in his pelvis, hips or lower back.

Tennis player serve back extend injury Hampshire Emsworth Chiropractic sports injury exercise fitness core strength flexibility stamina
We’ve all seen a tennis player serve- the racket moves over the head and behind the body whilst the spine flexes laterally and hyperextends- the trunk must then be brought into very rapid flexion to smash the ball, whilst very high velocity rotation causes a corkscrewing motion through the spine, transferring force and torque (twisting) into the spinal segments. The tennis serve places more load and stress on the spinal structures than any other stroke in tennis, and these shearing forces can lead the lower back susceptible to injury. Think of Andy Murray and his microdiscectomy surgery on his lower back in 2013- the large forces transmitted through the lumbar spine can cause intermittent lower back pain that can eventually lead to retiring from the game.

In addition to ankle and lower back problems, the shoulder also has to work hard during the serve to stabilise the glenohumeral joint when it is extended, preparing to serve. This relies almost completely on the rotator cuff muscles, who not only have to stabilise the shoulder but also cope with the added issue of the tennis racket- which further increases the distance from the shoulder to the moment of impact in the centre of the racket. When the rotator cuff muscles are weak, there is excessive “play” in the movement of the joint in the shoulder socket, causing irritation in the surrounding tissues.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Only ≈ 20% of #energy needed to serve a #tennis ball comes from shoulder- the rest is from hip, trunk & core strength” quote=”Only around 20% of the energy needed to serve a tennis ball comes from the shoulder- the rest is from hip, trunk and core strength.”]

So how do we avoid injuries?

  • Cold muscles are more prone to injury so always take time to warm up and stretch before any game.
  • Proper muscle strengthening and conditioning will help minimise the reduce of most injuries. Shoulder injuries are usually due to poor conditioning and poor strength of the rotator cuff muscles so these should be appropriately stabilised.
  • Pay particular attention to technical components such as grip size and proper technique can help reduce the likelihood of developing tennis elbow.
  • Tennis player serve back extend injury Hampshire Emsworth Chiropractic sports injury exercise fitness core strength flexibility staminaAppropriate footwear is critical to preventing stress fractures (which often occur in the leg or the foot) in addition to supporting the arches of the foot and ankle.
  • Focus on technique- the need to hyperextend through the lumbar spine when serving can be reduced by bending your knees and lifting your heels, which allows your upper body weight to be more evenly balanced.
  • Introducing specific core stability exercises will enable tennis players to achieve better balance and proprioceptive abilities (proprioception is the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and understand their position in space without having to look!) With this, players are better able to stabilise their body through the extreme ranges of motion it undergoes during tennis.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Remember that #tennis isn’t exercise. It’s a #sport. You have to exercise in order to play the sport!” quote=”Remember that tennis isn’t exercise. It’s a sport. You have to exercise in order to play the sport!”]

Tennis player serve back extend injury Hampshire Emsworth Chiropractic sports injury exercise fitness core strength flexibility stamina
Stay stamina and stability savvy to avoid injuries!

References:
Pluim, B.M., Staal, J.B., Windler, G.E., Jayanathi, N. (2006) Tennis injuries: Occurrence, aetiology and prevention. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 40(5) 415-423

Pluim, B.M., Drew, M.K. (2016) It’s not the destination, it’s the ‘road to load’ that matters: a tennis injury prevention perspective. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 50. 641-642

Sell, K., Hainline, B., Yorio, M., Kovacs, M. (2014) Injury trend analysis from the US OPen Tennis Championships between 1994 and 2009. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 48. 546-551

Horse and Rider

A good rider knows that they must work in unison with their horse. To create fluid movements it requires symmetry, balance, coordination and stability. This doesn’t come easy, and requires training on both parts as a poor rider can ruin a good horse.Professional horse jumper

At Acorn Health we see patients that are involved in a variety of equestrian activities, including carriage driving, showjumping, cross-country and dressage. In addition to this blog post, we have prepared a brief video to help you reduce the impact of back pain whilst riding (see below), but first please read our hints and tips!

Lower back pain is a common problem in horse riders, due to the static position we adopt when riding – especially in the untrained rider. These problems reveal themselves through dysfunction and altered movement in the hips, pelvis, and lower back from the result of poor core stability, lack of flexibility, and instability in the saddle. There are some simple steps to prevent this.

If you only have a few minutes, scroll down to the bottom to read our top tips to improve these problems.

Restriction in the movement of the hips is a common problem, and this can affect the pelvic movement and motion of the lower back. The pelvis moves in a complex, multidirectional way when riding, if one area is not moving enough, another area will be moving too much to counteract this. Good core stability is vital to allow and support these movements. Insufficient movement through the hips can cause stiffening of the lower back and buttocks so the upper body may become loose (causing head bobbing or bouncing shoulders), or the lower body may become unstable (leading to flapping legs). An example is seen in the video below.

If you feel out of balance in the saddle, this may be because you are tipping forward through the pelvis. This in turn causes your seat bones (the ones you sit on) to angle backwards.  The result here is that the lower back hollows, and the hips are unable to move freely at this angle.  When this happens your body will immediately attempt to compensate for this, usually through recruiting other muscles to stabilise the area- commonly, the inner thighs or hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your thighs) will become involved, and this can lead you susceptible to yet more muscle and joint strain.

The image in the video demonstrates tipping forward through the pelvis causing hollowing of the lower back. The correct position of the pelvis in the saddle, and rotating backwards through the pelvis causing flattening of the lower back and protruding stomach.Hacking with horses

Importantly, these imbalances in the rider can also affect the way your horse is able to
move. Putting pressure on your horse’s back means that he will find it difficult to use his back and legs in the correct way. This impacts on your horses ability to swing their shoulders through the paces, and can cause them to have back pain too so over time, you will both perpetuate each other’s lower back issues.

Many riders find that their hamstrings (in the back of the thigh) and their quadriceps (in the front of the thigh) become shortened as a result of the position we adopt in the saddle.  Ensure you muscles are functioning at their best by adopting a good stretching routine.

What are the most common postural faults in riders?

  1. The “en avant” position. Leaning forward in the saddle and balancing the majority of the weight in the stirrups.  This is most commonly seen in show jumpers and cross-country eveners. Riding too much in this position also means you will be unable to provide the correct aids to your horse, and are already out-of-balance in the saddle. The pectoral muscles in the front of the chest become tight and sore, further encouraging rounded shoulders. Due to this imbalance, should the horse spook, you may find yourself thrown forward on to his neck or coming off over his shoulder.
  2. Riding too short or too long.  Stirrup length should be measured and adjusted on a regular basis. Why? As you become more flexible, your body will change and as a result subtle changes will adapt the length of the muscle.
  3. Tight hip flexors.  Tension through the front of the thigh will automatically lead to tension in the lower back, causing weakening of the abdominal muscles. A common mistake is to adopt a position in the saddle similar to the position we adopt when using an office chair. When the hip is over-flexed, the lower back hollows as a result which is a key contributor to lower back pain.
  4. Dropping the chin. Constantly dropping the chin to look at the horse causes strain of the muscles in the back of your neck, and weakening of those in the front. This in turn can lead to headaches, neck, and upper back pain. A rider should always be looking up and ahead, not down at the horse.

Top tips for reducing back pain in the saddle:IMG_8878

  1. Stretch. Riders rely on their quadricep muscles to bear the weight of their body, and the calf muscles must work to keep the heels down in the saddle.  This tends to lead to hamstrings becoming tight but weak, calves becoming long, and quadriceps shortening. Maintain suppleness and flexibility through your hips by stretching on a regular basis (not only before you get on the horse!)
  2. Focus on your core stability.  Yoga or pilates exercises will help teach you balance and coordination by encouraging your core muscles to work correctly, allowing you to maintain the correct posture in the saddle.
  3. Ensure your saddle has been fitted correctly.  A poorly fitting saddle can cause discomfort in the horse and affect its movement, often encouraging the horse to move asymmetrically to avoid pressure and pain from the saddle.
  4. Commit to physical fitness.  A lot of riders use riding as their only conditioning activity, but a well-rounded fitness programme (which includes core stability, stretching routines and cardiovascular exercises) will help improve your overall fitness and stamina, and reduce injury while riding.

Please see the full video with guided help here.

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