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Unlock your locked-down self

COVID has had many implications on all of us - one of which is spending a lot more time inside. Jason Prior, owner of Turramurra Chiropractic, has seen a steep increase in patients who are suffering from the after-effects of this prolonged lockdown - here's his two cents.

I am sitting here reflecting on the past months through COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and all the challenges that I and all my patients have faced. For some, the opportunity to work at home has given them back extra time that they would have otherwise wasted commuting. Perhaps they have had more time with children or to do gardening or fix up their house. Maybe they’ve even been able to go out more often for a ride or run. For many though, the combination of being unable to exercise, looking after children and doing home schooling, and continuing to work – often with poor ergonomic setups - has meant a lot of pressure, not only mentally but physically, leading their bodies to get locked up.

Lack of movement coupled with stress over many months has led to tight muscles and joints and an increase in back pain, neck pain, and headaches. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, people lose strength and flexibility and are unable to tolerate physical activity for any length of time. Another effect of “locked down’ body is that we become less coordinated. When this is combined with the other effects, we become prone to injuries. I’m seeing more injuries than I’ve ever seen before because of people suddenly returning to exercise.

So how should you unlock your locked down self to help prevent injury and get back to doing more of what you love to do?

First and foremost, it should be done slowly and within comfortable limits. The “no pain, no gain” motto is not the smart way to go. As Alex Hutchinson wrote in his book Endure, many of the world's best athletes only train hard about 20% of the time; the other 80% is spent on low to moderate intensity exercise. We need to remember that, unless you are Usain Bolt, life is a marathon, not a sprint. You have time to get your desired body back.

Stretching is a fundamental part of the unlocking plan. It should be done light, often and specifically in the areas you need. Consuming lots of water (not coffee, tea, fizzy drinks or alcohol… sorry!) will help with flexibility. Simply taking your spine and joints through their full range of movement everyday can make a huge difference.

Don’t sit continuously for too long, get up and move away from your desk. Even the best ergonomically setup workstation can be nearly worthless if you don’t get away from it often enough. If you are working on a laptop at the coffee table or on the lounge in your pyjamas, it is definitely time to make improvements.

As with stretching, strengthening or improving your overall fitness should be gradual. Don’t expect your tennis serve to be as powerful or as accurate as before. Be cautious when playing sports like soccer. I have seen way too many bad injuries in this season. Keep it simple, avoid slide tackles – it’s likely to hurt you as much as the other person. If you go to the gym and lift weights, start out well below your previous maximum and usual training amount. I suggest to many patients that they come away from the first couple of sessions feeling like they haven’t done enough and then wait two days to check for muscle soreness to tell them how well their session actually went. Definitely no ‘zero to hero’ performances.

Understanding what specific limitations you have and how you can avoid any potential injuries is an important role a chiropractor can play in your unlocking plan. After a comprehensive initial consultation, I develop a plan which usually includes hands on treatment, specific stretching and strengthening exercises and ergonomic advice. Other advice may include teaching you how to sleep better, to relax more effectively, eat better and other techniques to reduce physical and mental stress which can affect your recovery.

My goal is to empower people with the knowledge to make better health choices and the skills to achieve their health and life goals, and do it safely. I believe that the sooner you take action the sooner you will be able to unlock your locked-down self and do more of what you love to do. 9440 8003


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