Tips For Healthy Cycling.

Cycling orchard lined roads, touring between vineyards, cruising the Kettle valley railway, flowing down trails at Smith creek, or eagerly awaiting completion of the Okanagan rail trail – cycling offers something for everyone in the beautiful Okanagan.
After an injury or surgery, my patients commonly ask “do you think I’m ready to get back on my bike?”. More often than not, the answer is “yes”. The bicycle is such a fantastic tool for rehabilitation and exercise, producing low impact forces on the body, while promoting lower limb range of motion and strength. However, whether your goal is rehabilitation, fitness, competing in the next triathlon, or just plain enjoyment, you should be aware of some common aches and pains that can stem from time on your bike.
Necks, backs and knees are the most common areas of complaint from cyclists. Sure, cycling is low impact but it can also require long periods of time in sustained postures. When a muscle is in a prolonged contraction its blood flow is limited, its pH level drops becoming more acidic, at which time the muscle will begin to fatigue and complain. Experiencing muscle fatigue and mild pain is a normal process of getting stronger, however only when balanced with adequate recovery time! Prolonged load beyond your tissues tolerance and inadequate recovery time are the primary reasons for injuries on the bike.
If you’re new to cycling or getting back on the bike after a long hiatus, I would encourage you to adhere to the following three principles. 1) Get your bike properly fitted to you. A well fitted bike creates an efficient posture, significantly reducing unwanted loading on your neck, back and knees. Your local bike store can guide you in this process. 2) Start low and build slow. Gradually increasing the load on your bodies tissues and allowing recovery after a ride will allow your tissues to adapt, becoming more tolerant to prolonged postures on the bike. 3) Develop your core strength. The concept of ‘core strength’ is an over promoted concept but when it comes to cycling, having strong gluts and lower back muscles will help to maintain an efficient posture for producing power through the legs and minimizing strain on your back in the process. Consider consulting a physiotherapist or exercise professional for a few core strengthening exercises that can be performed off the bike two to three times a week.
The benefits of cycling far outweigh any of the potential aches and pains mentioned above. Train smartly by adhering to the above principles and continue to experience the joys of cycling in the Okanagan. Maybe I’ll see you at this years Apple triathlon?
Nick Black is a registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield. He can be contacted at the new Winfield location by phone: 250-766-2544 or email:[email protected]

Bike techniques to race fast and remain injury-free.

Cycling is considered a low impact activity but some cyclists do experience pain the the back, knees, feet, saddle region, neck, wrists and hands.

The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia (PABC) recently outlined some simple steps, call the Physio-4, that cyclists can use to reduce their chances for injury, prevent pain, and cycle more effectively.

The Physio-4 for Cycling:

Select a bike that fits. An ill-fitting bike causes pain. A bike that fits – frame size, pedal alignment, handlebar position and saddle height – promotes good posture. Your physiotherapist can provide tips on correct bike fit and can correct poor mechanics before pain and injury develop.

Choose cycling if you have osteoarthritis in your hips, knees or feet. The non-impact, rhythmic motion helps reduce joint pain and stiffness and keeps your muscles strong. Your physiotherapist can prescribe a cycling program and help you choose the right bike.

The aerobic benefits of cycling help to manage high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Cycling builds stamina. Your physiotherapist can help determine the right level of aerobic exercise and develop a program to meet your goals.

Stretch and strengthen off your bike to improve on-bike performance. Your physiotherapist can create a program to treat muscles that are prone to tightness as well as help you strengthen areas such as your core to dramatically improve your cycling efficiency.

It’s also important to remember to always wearing a helmet and fluorescent clothing by day and reflective clothing at night. After dark and in the rain, cyclists should ensure they have lights that work – white for the front and red for the back. Cyclists should also be vigilant about what’s on the road and be on the lookout for car doors being opened by motorists.

Running techniques to race fast and remain injury-free.

This is the time of year where you are starting to ramp up your training for triathlons and running races. It has been shown that as many as 80% of runners sustain a running-related injury in a given year. So what are the reasons for so many running injuries? And how can they be avoided?

Training schedule, running technique, and tissue strength/tolerance are three major determinants as to whether or not you will be sidelined with an injury this season.

Here are more detailed explanations of the three common causes for injury:

Too much too soon. An overly ambition training schedule is a classic mistake. It is believed that as much as 80% of running injuries occur because of training errors. An easy to follow guideline is the 10% rule: avoid increasing your running mileage more than 10% from the previous week.

Poor or inefficient running technique. A potential cause for injury is technique, or rather, a poor technique. It can result in too much impact too quickly (vertical loading rate) as you land. A high vertical loading rate can be caused by any of all of the following: heel striking with your foot too far in front of your hips (over-striding), a lack of bend in your knee or hip during landing, a lack of strength in core/hip musculature to help absorb impact. Instead, gradual increased training in a flatter/minimalist shoe (to reduce heel striking), increasing step cadence to approximately 180 steps per minute, and aiming to land softer or ‘quieter’ are all ways of reducing tissue overload.
Core and hip muscle weakness. It has been shown that a lack of gluteal muscle strength can lead to increased stress on the knee and foot, resulting in a greater chance of tissue breakdown. Taking part in a consistent individualized strengthening program throughout the year can be a key component to avoiding injury.

Remember, don’t wait until minor aches and pains turn into significant injury. Every runner is different, so book an appointment with Sun City Physiotherapy to determine how best to avoid injury this season.  Call 250-861-8056 to book your appointment today.

Swim techniques to race fast and remain injury-free.

Swimming has a relatively low risk of sport related injury, yet, swimmers often complain of shoulder pain. This can be caused by muscle overuse and incorrect technique. By making stroke adjustments, you can not only minimize pain and prevent injury, but also improve performance.

The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia (PABC) recently outlined some simple steps, call the Physio-4, that swimmers can use to reduce their chances for injury, prevent pain, and swim more effectively.

The Physio-4 for swimming:

Be mindful of body rotation. Never swim with a “flat body” as this limits the rotation of the shoulder along the axis of the spine. Develop a symmetrical way to rotate your body for an efficient breathing pattern and this will greatly reduce the risk of shoulder injuries.

Enter the water with a flat hand. A hand directed outwards when entering the water leads to unhealthy internal rotation.  This is one of the most common causes of acute pain in the shoulder as it overuses the muscles.  It is best to enter the water with a flat hand, fingertips first.

Maintain good posture. The saying “shoulders back, chest forward” applies both in and out of the water. Hunched or rounded shoulders can lead to a wide arm recovery that causes shoulder injuries and “cross-overs” in your stroke. Strengthening the muscles at the back of the shoulder and stretching those at the front will help prevent injury, and help you to swim faster.

Incorporate bilateral breathing into your swim workout. Breathing only on one side will develop the muscles on that side more than the other.  This can eventually lead to shoulder problems.  By breathing on both sides with every workout you can prevent this from happening.

Aside from these injury-prevention techniques, there are important things to remember when swimming outdoors. Never dive head first into water unless the depth is known. When swimming in lakes or oceans be aware of any natural hazards such as tides and rapids, never swim alone, and always let someone know where you are training. And always be mindful of boaters – because they may not always be looking for you.

If you are injured or in pain during or after swimming, or require an exercise program to help avoid or overcome shoulder injury, Sun City Physiotherapy can help. Call 250-861-8056 to book your appointment today.

Off Season Prevention of Curling Injuries

Attention Curlers!

The curling season has now come to an end, and most of us won’t step onto the ice again until fall. If you spent any part of the past season haunted by joint or muscle pain, this is the perfect time to do something about it. Absolutely every professional athlete knows that the off-season is the time to rebuild strength and recover from injury. Whatever your age and physical activity level, this same principle applies to you.

Curlers are most likely to experience pain in their shoulders, back or knees. This pain is most likely to affect either the delivery phase or the sweeping phase of the game. Sometimes it can take hours or even days after playing for the pain to subside, or it may lead to the use of pain medications. Pain is a big deal because it can stop your muscles from generating power and can affect your enjoyment of the game. Unfortunately, if not properly addressed, this pain can go on for years, getting worse and worse until it eventually leads to retirement from the sport.

Many of the aches and pains that we experience as curlers originate from a common source: muscle imbalance around the legs, back and shoulders. By building strength and flexibility in our muscles, it’s possible to achieve a consistent, balanced delivery and powerful sweeping. For example, a powerful push from the hack uses the strength in your quads while effective sweeping requires strong deltoids and latissimus dorsi. Conversely, weakness in your quads or tightness in the hip flexors will prevent you from getting low enough to be balanced and effective in your delivery.

The solution to this problem must include building strength and lengthening tight muscles. Since this takes time to do, it can be difficult to achieve during the curling season. A proper, targeted stretching and strengthening program, provided by your Physical Therapist, during the off season will make you a better shot maker while at the same time eliminate distracting aches and pains. By consulting with your Physical Therapist early in the off season, you’ll be giving yourself the best chance to return to the ice in the fall as a stronger and more comfortable athlete.

Rob Heimbach is a registered physiotherapist and associate at Sun City Physiotherapy’s Glenmore location. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Injury Prevention in Curling

If you’re a regular league curler, whether recreational or competitive, then you’re surely familiar with the aches, pains and injuries that go hand-in-hand with the sport. Joints and muscles at the knees, back and shoulders are most vulnerable to injury. The good news is that by taking the following three preventative steps, you can minimize your chances of injury and maximize your enjoyment of curling this season!

Number one on my list is proper equipment. I can guarantee that if you curl long enough you’re going to fall once or twice. Over 90% of curling injuries result from a slip and fall. If you’re on the ice with any regularity, it’s worth ditching the runners in favour of a proper gripper and slider. Beginner curlers and young curlers in particular should also consider wearing a helmet when starting out. Scary fact: when you fall, your head is the body part that’s most likely to hit the ice first!

Number two is a proper warm up. But wait, there’s a twist. You need to actually get WARM. You need to increase your heart rate and body temperature! If you think that I’m stating the obvious, just look around at all of the curlers casually chatting or gently stretching before going on the ice. These activities will only warm you up if you’re doing them on a hot beach or in a hot yoga studio. Start by running on the spot, high-knees, butt-kicks, or doing jumping jacks. Follow that up with some curling-specific stretches including the legs and trunk, and you’ll be ready to hit the ice.

My third and final tip is this: get a qualified coach to take a look at your mechanics. I remember the first time that I saw my delivery and sweeping on camera, I was shocked at how awkward I looked! I’m not saying that you’re in the same boat; you might be perfect. But you may not look as good as you think you do. If you aren’t already getting regular coaching, an instructor can provide you with some insight into your technique. Improving your delivery and sweeping by optimizing the way that you load your joints and muscles will improve your performance and prevent overuse injuries. You’ll play better, and feel better doing it!

Keep these three points in mind and with any luck you’ll make it through the curling season with little to no time missed due to injury! If you do happen to run into any issues along the way, keep in mind that a visit to a physiotherapist can help you to get back on track. Happy curling in 2016!

For more information on curling injuries, prevention and exercise, join us for a free informational talk on Tuesday, January 26th at 6:30 at Sun City’s Glenmore location. Call 250-762-6313 to reserve your seat.

Rob Heimbach is a registered physiotherapist and associate at Sun City Physiotherapy’s Glenmore clinic. He can be contacted at 250-762-6313 or email [email protected]