The No.1 Injury Prevention Strategy – Mechanical stress: Friend or Foe?

It is around this time of year – approx. 6 to 8 weeks after implementing our New Year’s resolution to “get fit” – that injury is often experienced.  “I was exercising so well, why did I get injured?” is a question often asked when clients come in to see us at InTouch Physiotherapy. The answer is encompassed in your exercise LOAD and why it can be your best friend or worst enemy.

LOAD = MECHANICAL STRESS + physiological stress (I will talk about physiological stress in another post)

What is mechanical stress?

Mechanical stress is the resistant force that is created by your body when your limbs oppose another force. With running, your body generates mechanical stress to resist the force of the ground you run on and the force of gravity, with swimming, the force of the water you’re submerged in. Monitoring the amount of mechanical stress applied to your body is one of the best ways to prevent injury.

Adequate mechanical stress = Remodeling……..Adaptation

The correct balance of mechanical stress brings about a strengthening of tissues such as bone, tendon and muscle. This is called remodelling. Applying mechanical stress to your body is crucial if you want to become fitter, stronger and improve performance. This process is called ADAPTATION. I think we severely underestimate how well our bodies can adapt to mechanical stress, so long as it is applied in GRADUAL, CONSISTENT and PROGRESSIVE doses.

Excessive mechanical stress = Degeneration…….Injury

When the mechanical stress applied to your body is greater than your body’s capacity to adapt, your tissues respond in a negative way and weaken their structure, even before any pain is experienced. This can potentially lead to injury. The challenge for us is finding just how much mechanical stress can be applied to your tissues to create adaptation and not degeneration. Make a mistake with this balancing act and your risk of injury increases immensely.

By Michael Bushell, Senior Physiotherapist, In Touch Physio

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