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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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@example.com
Ski and snowboard season is here!
I’m sure many of you skiers out there have already started to dust off your equipment, check the daily snow report and maybe even head to the mountain for some early season skiing.
We are fortunate in Kelowna to have so many great ski resorts nearby. Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to get some fresh air and exercise when it can be a challenge to stay active in Kelowna through the fall and winter. This is especially true lately when it has been so wet, cold and dark outside. Since most outdoor activities have wrapped up for the summer, I think that this is the perfect time of year to start conditioning your body in preparation for the upcoming ski season, if you are not already doing so. A good exercise program which addresses core and hip stability, balance, flexibility, muscle endurance and aerobic conditioning will go a long way to help improve your endurance and technique on the mountain to help you get the most out of your season.
If you are currently recovering from an injury or if you have just been sedentary for some time and are noticing a lack of strength, balance, range of motion or overall conditioning, it can be very useful to engage in a progressive rehabilitation exercise program prior to doing something more demanding on your body, like hitting the slopes for the day.
In the clinic, it is not uncommon to see overuse or traumatic injuries pop up as a result of unresolved muscle weakness, due to injury or sedentary behaviour, followed by more demanding or intense exercise. This excessive demand could come from lifting very heavy weights, running too fast or too far, attending an advanced exercise class or participating in a full day of winter activities. While the above examples may very well be a realistic long term goal, you may be putting your body at an increased risk of injury if you engage in an activity that your body is not adequately prepared for.
Exercise needs to be consistent and frequent, rather than all or none. Set a goal to exercise small amounts each day. An exercise program should include a combination of core stability, strengthening, stretching, balance training and aerobic conditioning.
If you are currently recovering from an injury or if you have been inactive for some time and are not sure where to begin, a physiotherapist can help get you on the right track, by developing a safe and effective individualized home exercise program based on your specific goals and current ability.
On February 2, the groundhog told us that spring will arrive soon. But don’t fear – the sledding days are not yet over. If you are looking to maximize your snowmobiling adventures or to try the activity for the first time before the snow disappears, then this is for you.
Like any other activity, it is important to understand the risks and how to prevent injury. In this case I’m not talking about injuries from accidents, although that is still very important to take precautions to avoid. My focus is instead on the aches and pains you may experience throughout your body.
Snowmobiles have come a long way from the original 20 ton machine that was first designed for log hauling, with most modern machines weighing over 500 lbs and able to reach speeds of 110 mph (Heisler 2010). With prolonged time on the machine you are exposed to awkward positions for your upper body, long periods of sitting with a forward bent posture, and vibration stresses. Not to mention the heavy lifting, pulling, and pushing when you need to get out of a jam. Common aches and pains from riding are the low back, neck, shoulder and the occurrence of white-finger syndrome (Heisler 2010).
I’m not suggesting you quit your sport! There are certain factors that can be modified to prevent you from injury, and to keep you more comfortable.
A factor to the aches and strains is the ergonomics of a snowmobile. One of the most important parts to adjust is the steering bar (Rehn et al. 2005). Ideally it should be close enough to your body and have the grips oriented in a way so that your wrists aren’t bent, your shoulders aren’t hiked up and you do not have to reach so far forward. This will put you in a more comfortable posture for your upper limbs and your lower back, as well as lowering the grip force you need to use. Specific positions are to have your wrists neutral, elbows bent 60-70 degrees and if you have a seat back, for it to be tilted back 45 degrees (Heisler 2010). Grips should ideally be about 1.5” in diameter to lessen the grip strength required to steer (Heisler 2010). When looking at buying a snowmobile, also consider its seat suspension. Whole-body vibration, which will occur even on groomed trails, puts the discs in your back at risk for injury (Bovenzi and Hulshof 1999).
There are other factors to consider beyond just the ergonomics of your sled. Here are things you can do to prevent injuries:
Avoid sitting too long in poor posture: When you sit, you lose the normal curve in your low back. This is made worse by bending forward. The posture in combination with the machine’s vibration puts the discs at risk of injury. When possible, alter how you sit so that you back isn’t arched so much.
Wear appropriately warm mitts: Vibration of the upper limb, along with cold exposure, can contribute to the occurrence of “white-finger syndrome” which increases the chances of frostbite. It will also affect your ability to grip properly (Heisler 2010). To minimize this risk, stay warm!
Keep strong: Think of sledding as you would another sport – one that requires strength and endurance. Keep your body fit, and flexible, during the week to prepare you for the weekend adventures.
Listen to your body: If you’re getting fatigued, it’s time for a break. That is when you have a greater chance of adopting poor postures, or hurting yourself with the sudden jolts and turns.
And of course, listen to your body if you’re experiencing pain. Delayed onset of muscle soreness, DOMS, has been reported to last about 1-3 days after snowmobiling (Heisler 2010), but if it extends beyond that, or if you’re finding you’re getting weak (a loss of grip strength is commonly reported) – seek out care from a health professional.
Enjoy the rest of the sledding season, have fun, and stay injury-free!
IT Band Syndrome
Its the time of year when its great to get back outdoors, and when many of us become more physically active again. As our bodies adjust to the increased activity, sometimes there are aches and pains that come along with it. One such problem that commonly occurs in the hip or knee is Iliotibial (or IT) Band Syndrome.
The IT band is a connective tissue that runs from the muscles in the hip, down the outer thigh to connect into the outside of the knee. When you increase your activity levels, particularly running or hiking, then the hip and thigh muscles are required to work harder and as they recover they may have that tight post-exercise feeling. Because these muscles connect directly into the IT band, more tightness in them will increase the tension of the IT band itself. As the IT Band travels down the outer thigh, it runs over two bony prominences – one on the outside of the hip, and the other on the outside of the knee. An increase in tension of the IT band can therefore cause increased friction as it rubs over the bone, which leads to inflammation and pain in the outer hip and/or knee region.
There are some common features that may predispose someone to encountering this problem. These include muscle imbalance, sudden increase in training, running or hiking up and down hills, type of foot wear, and running/ walking gait pattern.
Once the causative factors have been identified with the help of your physiotherapist, IT band syndrome can usually be managed well. Physiotherapists have an effective way of releasing the tension in the IT Band by using acupuncture needles combined with some massage techniques. As well as reducing IT Band tension and reducing the inflammation in the irritated tissue, specific strengthening of the muscles around the hip and knee is required to take some of the stress off the IT band. This will ensure that as you continue to hike or run, there is less friction on the IT Band as it moves over the underlying bone, and less friction means less pain.
So if pain in your hip or knee is stopping you from getting out there this spring, it may be a fixable case of IT Band syndrome.