Ahhh…Fall! Many of our Minneapolis/St. Paul Clinic patients describe it as one of, if not their most favorite season. You certainly can understand why. Beautiful colors, brisk low-humidity days, harvests of fall fruits and vegetables, and on and on. A thrilling time of year! With it comes new challenges for our bodies though. Will our backs and joints be up to them? Consider the following:
- Fall leaf clean-up
- Changeable weather
- Early snows?
- What kind of shape am I really in?
The “official” orthopedic definition of an athlete pretty much puts everyone into that category to one degree or another. During this autumn time of year we become the “fall leaf raking athlete”. Just think of the workout the back, neck, legs, shoulders and arms get. There’s the obvious repetitive activity of raking and blowing. But how about all the bending and picking up, bagging and compressing the leaves into the bags. Then the lifting, hauling with more bending and lifting. OK you’ve got the picture!…and are probably in the midst of doing these things even as I write. More than likely you’ll do this “Olympiad Event” more than once. Here’s the thing…if you take a well conditioned athlete in one sport, and place him into another one, he’ll get sore. Why? Because that body is not used to the particular demands of a different activity. Now, a well conditioned person will adapt pretty fast to that new “sport”, but every activity generally requires a set of joints and muscles to work in a way suited to that endeavor. And… it takes a little time. And of course, it takes joints and muscles that are working well enough to adapt. During this transition its pretty easy to have them get into trouble. Actually, a lot of trouble, because silently (without symptoms) they may not have been working all that well to begin with.
Along with the new and different (remember you haven’t done this stuff since last Fall) physical work, the weather, including high and low pressures, can fluctuate from hot to cold, rainy and damp to dry, and everything in between. These weather changes definitely seem to impact our joints and muscles, with more effects in those that already have issues like joint “fixations” (they’re stuck – at least partially), structural imbalances (e.g. unlevelled shoulders, tipped pelvis, short leg, etc.), and arthritic (wear and tear degenerative) changes. Cooler temperatures require that our muscles need more warm up from an increased blood supply, and more stretching to stay flexible. Without that its much easier for them to get “overworked” because they’re not running efficiently, or unfortunately, strained (torn – even just microscopically), pulled or overly stretched. All this means we get stiff, sore, and likely carry some of the after effects along with us. These pile up over time, and set the stage for bigger problems down the road – like “My back, shoulder , knee, etc. pain just came out of the blue. I didn’t do anything different!”
OK Yard Athlete! Now a different sport begins. Snow shoveling, and blowing, sweeping, and scraping. Hopefully the storm window changing and cleaning sporting season had already drawn to a close…but you never know in Minnesota. Different sports – different joints and muscles. The snow season often comes without notice, as you well know. One day its all about beautiful fall leaf colors. The next we’re trying to figure out how to get the leaves up from under the snow. Those “ergonomic” (crooked handle) snow shovels can help, but you know what? – It’s still a bunch of bending, lifting, pushing…and in the cold. Pull starting the snow blower presents its own challenges for backs and shoulders too. Anyone reading this is all too familiar with the rigors of snow removal marathons and triathalons. With these events we often don’t get time to recover from one of them, when lo and behold we have to go compete again. Wow! Minnesotans almost don’t need gymnasiums…and we haven’t even mentioned indoor Fall house cleaning. That can be quite the “sporting event” too!
So, what kind of shape are you really in? Being “OK”, or ” I don’t have back, neck or joint pain or problems” is not the benchmark for how you REALLY are! That’s because we’re talking about how you’re working, not about whether or not you’ve broken down to the point where things hurt. Its like the difference between whether you have a cavity in a tooth, or whether you have a bad toothache at 3:30 in the morning. That cavity came about long before the toothache pain. Athletes are presumably in good shape. And yet, what are they doing when we’re not seeing them compete on Sunday afternoon, or in the Olympics? They’re keeping in shape – they’re not waiting for a body part to “breakdown” and become painful before they pay attention to it. They condition, condition, condition. They perform special warm-ups even before conditioning. And these are not weekend warriors like snow shoveling and leaf raking “athletes”, with periodic bouts of intense activity, and not much or no warm-up. We, at our Minneapolis/St Paul Chiropractic facility, recommend as a starting point for anyone with or without pain, an exam that is designed to look for joint fixations, structural imbalances and muscle status – Your biomechanics. Once we have this information as a base line, recommendations and care can be uniquely tailored to 1st help people get out of pain, and then to go about the business of “fixing” their biomechanics.
Being an “athlete” of any variety places demands on our bodies. Especially the joints and muscles. We’ll all be better able to participate in, and enjoy, the Autumn and Winter Sports Seasons if we are prepared. Knowing how your structural parts are working, and working with them to keep YOU in YOUR top form, will ensure many seasons to come. Consult with practitioners equipped to adequately assess and help you manage YOUR game!
By Dr. William T. Norlin Chiropractor in Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota