With the complexity of human bodies, job demands, lifestyle issues, environmental considerations and many other factors, it’s easy to understand why sprains and strains are some of the most common injuries in any industry. While there is no foolproof way to eliminate sprains and strains completely, you can change how your body functions with daily demands to make an impressive reduction in injury risk and experience.
At TiPS, we teach people how to use their bodies without using them up. To make this a reality in the often overloaded lives of our clients, we utilize existing activities and tasks as a primary means of achieving long-term sustainable results (see next month’s topic on short-term versus long-term results in prevention and recovery). Today, I am going to share with you my foundational principles for helping companies and individuals improve health, function and comfort.
A Primer in Sprains and Strains
Let’s dig in to a few basics. A ligament connects bone to bone, while a tendon essentially connects muscle to bone. A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament usually from something like falling, twisting or sudden excessive movement. A strain involves a tendon instead of a ligament and can be caused in the same ways as sprains or develop over time.
Both injuries occur when a force exceeds your body’s ability and tolerance. The force or external stressor may be sudden, sustained, or in the case of a strain, repetitive. Internal stressors are forces that come from your body itself. Internal stressors add to the challenge of correcting and preventing sprains and strains.
What You Can Control
Often, you can engineer out or reduce the potential forces of a task or put safeguards in place to manage it. Anticipate the possible forces your body faces in your daily tasks. Position your body to more effectively respond to them using soft joints, a staggered position, and other sensible adjustments.
You can also reduce internal stressors so that your body can function in a way that reduces pressure on your joints and optimizes your body’s ability to respond and stabilize itself. This allows your body to manage external stressors more easily, at a higher functionality, and with less trauma. You can enhance your body’s capabilities through improved blood flow, muscle flexibility, ability to stabilize joints, proprioception, muscular strength (ability to generate force), and muscular endurance (sustained ability).
First Steps Toward Sustainable Solutions
The first step toward sustainable solutions is to assess where your risks are and plan for corrections. Take into consideration force, frequency, and positioning. Download the TiPS Sprains, Strains and Sustainable Solutions Planner to the right to help you think through and organize your information. Let your employees help by finding out where they have aches, pains and tightness or where they feel strained physically (see our employee comfort survey available as a download in this month’s TiPS newsletter).
Next, manage as many external forces and stressors as you can. Use supports and tools at the workplace to literally take a load off, whether you’re moving boxes or spending most of your day sitting at a desk.
Another smart and surprisingly simple step is to correct your body position. When muscles are turned on by being in the correct position most of the time, they gain strength and endurance simply by doing day-to-day activities. When their positioning is poor, you are less effective at using your large muscles and overload smaller muscles and joints. Simple activities you perform regularly, such as walking, sitting, and squatting, provide opportunities to make significant changes with a few well-chosen corrections.
How Positioning Reduces Risk
In the picture below, the joint is in a good position and the ligaments (blue arrows) and tendons (green arrows) have normal tension and support ability. Theoretically, when this knee moves, it will move easily and consistently in the front and back motion that it is designed for as a hinge joint.
However, if the muscles on the outer part of the thigh are tight and the muscles on the inner part of the thigh are weak, the knee struggles to manage external stressors such as repetitive or sudden force change. It is more vulnerable to either a sprain or a strain. If these are the “normal” circumstances for this joint, it will get more and more dysfunctional as time progresses and more and more vulnerable to injury or degenerative changes.
There is a lot that you can do to enhance your body’s capabilities to meet external demands without the wear and tear that goes with it. Your body makes thousands of moves each day and encounters countless unanticipated and often uncontrollable forces. Get your body to work better, and you will have taken a huge step in the right direction.
Of course, the body is more complex than depicted here. But the process is still the same, and we can help the whole body at once with some simple changes. To help your team avoid strains and sprains and use their bodies in a sustainable way, contact TiPS today. Then, download our Sprains, Strains, and Sustainable Solutions Planner to the right of this post.