Pre-hab now to avoid re-hab later

A little bit of pre-hab may prevent some of the re-hab prescribed after an injury occurs.

Dr. Stephen Brandon

Now that the New Year’s celebrations have come and gone, most of us start to think about getting back in shape. This is a great idea, and our initiative should be commended. However, trying to start out performing at the highest level in the gym is not only unrealistic, but it may be unsafe. Many of us are in such a hurry to trim down and tone up that we rush into a workout that is too intense for our current fitness level.

Just as in life, you must learn to crawl before you learn to walk. This is especially true when it comes to developing core strength. For years, people have subscribed to the questionable notion that thousands of crunches and sit-ups will produce a chiseled midsection, and they go right to it on day one. Let’s remember two things: One is that the abdominals and other core muscles are stabilizers, not movers like the biceps and triceps. The other is that these muscles may not be ready for the exercises we subject them to.

This year, a little bit of pre-hab may prevent some of the re-hab prescribed after an injury occurs. First, we should focus on several specific exercises for a few weeks to build up the ability to do the crunches and more advanced core-strengthening routines. They may seem too simple and easy, as though they’re not really doing any good, but do them anyway, as they will lay important groundwork, preventing both pain and frustration down the line.

Two steps before you start

Step One can be done at the home or in the office. Sit on a chair and point your toes toward the floor. Take a breath in, and as you breathe out, begin to squeeze your chest toward your lap. Hold this until you start to quiver or get a funny feeling in your gut. Take a big breath and relax to the starting position. Do a set of three in the morning and three at night. You may be surprised by how much you feel the effects of this simple exercise.

Step Two is just as easy, but requires that you lie on the floor. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take a breath in, and as you breathe out, roll your hips backward so that your abs contract a bit and your spine straightens against the floor. This is the starting position. Without lifting your head, reach your right hand toward your right thigh and hold it for three seconds. Alternate left and right hands, for a total of 30 seconds. Do two sets of 30 seconds, twice a day, working up to three sets. Remember to breathe in and then to exert yourself while you blow out.

Are you ready to get ready?

Try these exercises for two weeks, gradually increasing your repetitions. After that, you may be able to begin crossing your hand to the opposite knee, eventually working toward a stronger abdominal contraction. If you feel you really have to do crunches right away, try to be conscious of how much your neck muscles are straining. If your neck is experiencing too much strain, you may need to do these pre-hab exercises.

You may have noticed that workout commercials always suggest you consult with a physician to determine whether you are healthy enough for certain exercises. They want to make sure your muscles are properly facilitated and ready to meet the demands you will be placing on your body. A professional consultation will also help assure that you are using the correct muscles to achieve your specific goals. A cursory visit to your applied kinesiologist and/or chiropractor today could prevent more painful visits down the road.


Stephen Brandon is a chiropractic physician who is a graduate of New York Chiropractic College.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 1, February/March 2008.

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