By Dr. Ira Shapiro
Director, Plaza Chiropractic Center
Let’s face it: there is no such thing as a safe sport. Whether it’s a strain, sprain or something far more serious, everyone will get injured and/or experience a painful event participating in any given activity at some point.
All forms of exercise pose challenges. It doesn’t matter if it’s hiking or biking or gardening or bowling, the chance of injury is always there.
Unfortunately, even nagging problems can turn into chronic injuries when ignored, simply overlooked or mistakenly believed healed after a few days of rest, ice and painkillers. This is especially common with overuse injuries that develop slowly and gradually worsen over time.
No one is immune to bad luck or poor training techniques. In fact, you may occasionally see a good athlete with bad form, but will almost never see a bad player with good form. Proper form is not only integral to improving athletic performances, but also alleviating the spine, neck, joints ligaments and tendons of the undo stress that cause injury.
The same is true for balance. In addition to training incessantly with the greatest dedication to precision, ever wonder how dancers effortlessly glide across the stage in perfectly-choreographed harmony with other performers? You’ve probably never heard of it, but proprioception is an extremely adept and underutilized method for coordinating muscle movements, increasing the body’s awareness of space and time and enhancing balance. It’s how our body knows how to navigate a flight of stairs in the dark or synchronize our movements to bowl, golf, run or even clean without thinking about it. Conversely, people with poor proprioception lack the joint stability to bear the load of movements without reinjuring the surrounding soft tissues or perform simple tasks without stumbling or falling.
Fortunately, there are a wide range of proprioception exercises that can help to enhance the stability and agility of individuals, regardless of age. Here are some basic proprioception activities that anyone can perform at home or with the proper certified supervision. For some, it may be necessary to hold onto a wall, chair or counter while in the company of a spotter or companion. But the truth is nearly everyone ranging from athletes to the perpetually clumsy can benefit from a few minutes of proprioception training each day
- Stand heel to toe on a level surface for 30 seconds with eyes open and then eyes closed. Switch stance and repeat
- Walk forward heel to toe in a straight line
- Stand still on one leg and then the other for 30 seconds each
- Stand still on one foot for 30 seconds with eyes closed, while moving head from side to side. Repeat on other leg
- Sit on a balance ball, while alternately extending left, then right leg for two seconds each. Place hands on either side of ball for added stability
- Place stomach on balance ball with hands and knees on ground. Reach out right hand and left leg for four seconds. Switch to other side by extending left hand and right leg for four seconds
- Advance to using a wobble board for more difficult exercises. After learning to balance on two feet, switch to standing on one leg and then the other. A game of catch during these exercises will also increase the effort to another level
For more information on creating better, fitter and healthier lives for the entire family, contact the Plaza Chiropractic Center at 732-723-0023 or visit www.plazachiro.com. Our trained staff will be happy to work with you, no matter your age or condition, to develop a safe and effective wellness program that complements your life style and offers long-lasting fitness rewards.
Dr. Ira A. Shapiro is the director of the Plaza Chiropractic Center, which he founded in Old Bridge in 1984. Recently selected to the American Chiropractic Association Sports Council Hall of Fame and a two-time member of the U.S. Olympic team medical staff, Dr. Shapiro has spent the past 35 years providing safe, gentle and effective chiropractic care to tens of thousands of patients ranging from community members to professional athletes competing at the world’s highest levels.