Here are some newspaper and magazine articles I have had a lot of positive feedback from. I hope you find them useful.
Turning back the clock
Weight Gain in Menopause
Lotions Potions Drugs
Fasting Works Wonders
Investing in Fitness
Saving Your Skin
Perfect Gift for a Child
Generally speaking, you know when you have reached your limits. Cues such as exhaustion, crying, tension headaches, and heartfelt grouchiness can all suggest that you are dangling precariously at the end of your rope.
Your muscles also warn you of imminent danger and potential injury. Unfortunately, the subtleties of one's body language are often drowned out by noise and frantic pace of one's work, as well as one's play. Sometimes you get off relatively easy; your muscles are sore for a couple of days. At other times, the price paid is a bit steeper - a painful pulled muscle.
Nothing can grab your attention better than a shot of pain ripping thorough a muscle. If it happens in mid-sport, you may hit the ground faster than the ball. But what exactly is it that has happened? How can you best treat such an injury? And is it preventable?
A pulled muscle or, as doctors prefer to call it, a strain, is actually a tear within the muscle or at the junction where muscles meet tendons. (Muscles, of course are the living machines that turn chemical energy into mechanical energy. Tendons are fibrous cords of connective tissue that attach muscle to bone). To imagine a pulled muscle, think of a rubber band under tension. It is suddenly stretched and then, unexpectedly, it tears or ruptures.
The weakest link is at the junction where the muscles and tendon meet, and this is where the damage is most likely to occur. That's because the older we get, the more degeneration we experience in the collagen fibres that make up tendons; thus, they become less elastic and more susceptible to injury.
A mild strain will usually not bother you until after you have cooled down. It's sometimes confused with delayed-onset muscular soreness; that painful, aching feeling you get within over-worked muscles. However, a pulled muscle causes very localised pain instead of general soreness. There can also be swelling and bruising with a strain, but not with muscles that are simply overworked.
Perhaps the easiest means of distinguishing these two common problems is a simple stretch. Muscle soreness, especially following extreme exertion, is often nothing more than muscle spasms. Such pain decreases when a spasming muscle is stretched. However if a muscle is torn, stretching actually increases the pain. When a mild strain occurs, there has been an overstretching of a tendon or muscle fibres. If the force is strong enough, there will be a partial tear somewhere along the muscle/tendon unit and that's a moderate strain.
A Moderate Strain
A moderate strain is more likely to grab your attention immediately with pain, loss of function and a popping or snapping sound. Sometimes people will say that they felt like they had been hit with a ball or stick. Occasionally, a lump or knot will develop at the point of injury.
Sometimes people mistake a moderate strain for a cramp but again, they are quite different. Todd Molnar, MD , a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation says "A cramp is when you fatigue the muscle". Although there are many reasons why a cramp occurs, dehydration is probably the leading cause. "The muscle gets overheated and just gives up", says Dr. Molnar. So, the Southern Californian physician explains, a cramp is not an injury and there is no damage to the muscle. Again, stretching relieves the pain from a cramp, but not from a pulled muscle.
Finally, when your muscle pull doesn't stop at just a partial tear and there is a complete rupture of part of the muscle or tendon (or-ouch!-both), you have a severe or third degree strain. If just the thought of pain makes you feel uncomfortable, think about this: pulled muscles are one of the most preventable of all sports injuries. Experts estimate that 80% of all pulled muscles are preventable! The fact that this very common injury is not being prevented tells us a lot about what kind of shape we are really in.
There are many factors that lead to pulled muscles. Inadequate conditioning - too many people try to make up for a week of inactivity by going wild on the weekends. Thus, weekend athletes are weakened athletes who enter activity with a softening middle-aged body and a 19-year-olds enthusiasm.
You may want to sit down for this, but the reality is that the human body starts to deteriorate after about the age of sixteen. At this point we start getting stiffer, our tissues do not have the same elasticity they did in our youth and it takes us longer to get "warmed up" for activity.
True, we are staying active longer, but for safety's sake we must realise that our body changes with age: agility, flexibility, and speed diminish, stamina and endurance decrease considerably, power and strength require more attention to simply maintain the status quo, and the "morning after" becomes a time to regret the activity of the day before. If you are having problems with injuries consult your doctor or physiotherapist before continuing training.
Insufficient Warm up
For a few people, their warm up consists of little more than walking outside to run or getting dressed at the spa. Others simply use a poor warm-up routine. for example the corner-stone of high school P.E. is callisthenics. If they are part of your fitness plan, realise that they don't stretch your muscles, don't strengthen your weak ones, and they don't even use your muscles. In the same manner you will use them in almost any given athletic endeavour. Finally, a few other people have the right idea, just not enough follow through. These people know a few simple stretches which may or may not have any relationship to the activity they are about to enjoy - and assume that two quick minutes are better than nothing.
When stretching was first popularised as a protector against injury, many individuals and teams reported an increase in muscle injuries. Runners especially claimed to see more injuries as a result of stretching. That is because when a muscle is very tight, whether because its cold or simply inflexible, force is more likely to tear that muscle than it is to stretch it. The key? Do a gentle warm up until you feel yourself break into a sweat. Either try something as simple as running in place or simply enjoy a low key, comfortable few minutes of the activity you are about to undertake. Either way, as body temperature rises, muscles become more elastic and less susceptible to injury. So, warming up means exactly that. Then you can stop and stretch safely before proceeding to your chose activity.
There are two physiological factors involved in nearly all pulled muscles: inflexibility and strength. When you are fatigued, your strength diminishes. A fatigued muscle also looses its ability to relax: thus it remains rigid and has an increased risk of injury. So while the stress of your chosen activity remains essentially the same, your strength over time diminishes. Once the scales tip and the stress of your activity is greater than your strength, look out: you've an accident waiting to happen.
I know runners whose mileage would take your breath away, but they can't lift and carry a few boxes without getting winded. They're so focused on their chosen activity that they are physical wrecks from the waist up. That is one kind of muscle imbalance and it could get them in real trouble if they decide to play a game of tennis, for example, where their weaker-led muscles are at major risk of injury.
However, athletes can also be simultaneously weak and strong in adjoining muscle groups. For example, runners often have strong hamstring muscles (back lower leg) but weak quadriceps (thigh) muscles. Muscles work in pairs and the balance between quads and hams should be about 60:40. If the quads are too weak to balance the hams effectively, a strong contraction of the hams can tear the hamstring muscle. It is like picking up an object and expecting it to be very heavy, only to discover it is quite light. When you pick it up there is uncontrolled momentum of force and, in an unbalanced pair of muscles, that can cause injury.
Prior muscle injury or scarring
If prior injury leads to muscle imbalance, we have just seen that this can be hazardous to muscular health. The perfect example is someone who has had a knee injury. Unless they have specifically rehabilitated their quadriceps muscles, former knee patients generally find they are weak in the thighs.
Likewise, a torn muscle has lost strength and is especially vulnerable to further injury. Doctors complain that too often patients do not follow their rehabilitation program and they see the patients a few weeks later after they've re-injured themselves. Sometimes you must cease activity to recover, but you lose strength at 5 per cent per week and you lose endurance (your ability to sustain in activity over a period of time) in 54 hours. Even a week to ten days off will place you at tremendous risk of injury (or re-injury) if you attempt to simply pick up where you left off. A step-wise gradual return to activity is one key to injury prevention.
Finally, injured muscle fibres do not regenerate but heal with inelastic scar tissue. Thus, once injured, flexibility is even more important; your healthy muscles need to be in peak shape to protect their weakened comrade.