Orthopedic Health Tip Archive
While millions of people have found better physical and mental health through the practice of yoga, downward dog could have a downside for your health.
Recent reports highlight some potential dangers of yoga, including the fact that more than 7,300 people were treated for yoga-related injuries in 2010, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The most common injuries included repetitive strain injuries and overstretching of the shoulders, knees, neck, and spine.
But when done correctly, yoga is an effective - and popular - form of exercise. So popular that the American College of Sports Medicine named it #11 in the top 20 fitness trends of 2012.
Here are a few tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to help you practice safely:
- Get clearance. Talk with your physician or a physical therapist before you start a yoga practice so that he or she can recommend specific poses to avoid or modify based on any pre-existing conditions or injuries.
- Find a good fit. There are dozens of types of yoga, all with differing degrees of difficulty. Figure out which type will work best for you and then find a qualified yoga instructor.
- Get more clearance. Before your first class, talk through any concerns with your instructor. Throughout class, ask your instructor for ways to modify poses that you can't hold safely and strongly or cause pain.
- Start slow. Yoga is not a competitive sport. Begin by learning to breathe properly and stretch safely. As your practice progresses, you'll learn your limits. Don't try positions that are beyond your comfort level, especially early in your practice.
- Be a good sport. Just like other athletic endeavors, you need to follow a few simple rules, such as staying well hydrated, plus warming up and cooling down properly.
- Listen to your body. Most important of all, be aware of how each pose affects your muscles and joints. Do you feel a sharp pain? Are you lightheaded? If you need to take a break, stop! If you think you might have injured yourself, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Pumps, wedges, and stilettos may look great, they're not great for you. They can adversely affect the muscles, tendons, and joints of your legs - even after you take them off.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, took a look at how wearing high-heeled shoes can change the way women walk. They found that women tended to alter their gait with a shorter, more forceful stride when wearing heels, and that their feet remained in a "flexed, toes-pointed" position.
This unnatural way of walking engages more of the legs' tendons, whereas women walking in flats engaged more muscles. The long-term result is shorter fibers in their calf muscles. And, even more interesting, their altered gait remained even when they walked barefoot!
When the biomechanics of your body shift, that can create a chain reaction in your body that leads to trouble. In this case, wearing high heels can cause strain on the hamstrings, the muscles in the back of the thigh, according to a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research.
It also puts extra pressure on the inside of your knee, called medial loading, which increases your odds of developing osteoarthritis in that joint, an Iowa State University study found. Over time, wearing heels can change your posture so much that it affects your ankles, knee, hip, and lower back.
Feel like flats just won't cut it at work - or when you go out? Experts at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons advise:
- Limiting high heels to just two or three days a week.
- Buying heels with an ample toe box that doesn't crowd your toes. This will help distribute your weight more evenly.
- When you must wear heels, don't go too high.
- Take heels off as often as possible during wear - yes, even under your desk or under the dinner table!
One of the things that separates the sexes are their curves. But when it comes to their knees, it's all about angles and geometry.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, that's the real reason female athletes are up to 10 times more susceptible to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries than male athletes.
In this study, geometry refers specifically to the length and shape of the knee bone. The ACL is a ligament that helps stabilize the knee joint. Although often injured by contact in sports, it's often when you're jumping, landing, twisting, pivoting, or changing directions quickly in soccer, basketball, and skiing, that the dreaded ACL injury occurs. Researchers found that both women and men who experienced injuries had similar knee joint geometry. When the top part of the shin bone is shorter and more rounded, it can cause the ligaments to be looser, thus making the joint unstable and more prone to injuries. Statistically, more women have this knee structure.
There are other reasons from the National Association of Athletic Trainers that female knees - from pre-teen soccer players to adult athletes - are more easily injured:
- The anatomy of the female pelvis results in an increased angle between the hip joint and the knee joint, sometimes called the Q angle. In men, this angle looks like a capital "l" but in women, it more closely resembles a "7." That change alters the way force is exerted on the knee joint.
- Neuromuscular differences, mainly in the thigh muscles, between the genders cause female athletes to land differently when jumping.
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle result in more lax connective tissue and ligaments.
Despite these disadvantages, women can reduce their risk of ACL injuries with a dedicated program of strength training, plyometrics, and stretching. A program including walking lunges, toe raises, double- and single-leg jumps, and agility drills that focus on the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles will create muscle balance and help female athletes perfect safer jumping and landing techniques. Also important, the AAOS found, was a 15-minute warm-up prior to starting more high-impact activities.
If you've got joint pain, it may seem like geting out of bed is enough exercise for the day.
But exercise is actually the best way to lubricate your joints, maintain range of motion, and strengthen the muscles that support your joints - three key factors in reducing pain. If you haven't exercised lately, you'll need to check with your doctor before getting started. And be forewarned, your joints may ache a bit more than usual when you first get started. But as you develop a daily exercise routine, the pain should ease.
If you're looking for a new way to exercise, try these activities:
- Tai Chi: Don't be fooled by this gentle art form - it produces serious health benefits, including improved balance, flexibility and sleep. Recent research even finds a link to decreasing dementia and Parkinson's disease.
- Dancing: You don't have to be on a television contest to get a benefit from this form of exercise. Just turn on the tunes and dance a few steps in your kitchen. Just 20 minutes of moving a day can decrease your risk of heart disease by 14 percent, according to a recent study published in Circulation.
- Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing: This low-impact exercise is a great way to see Colorado's backcountry. Before you head out, be sure to take some safety precautions including telling someone where you are going, dressing in layers, staying on established trails, and carrying extra food, water, and clothing. Check out trails.com for trails, maps and safety tips.
Be sure to warm up slowly, then stretch for 10-15 minutes before engaging in activity at full level. For the biggest benefits, try to stretch and get some movement every day.