Do you ever wake up and feel like you’ve been hit by a truck? Well, I have literally been hit by a truck and can tell you first hand that it hurts… Really, really, hurts. Especially the broken bones and psychological trauma – but enough about me.
The thing is, we all get hit by our own metaphorical truck at some point in our lives. Hopefully in your case it was something less traumatic like twisting an ankle whilst hiking or stepping on a piece of Lego after stubbing a toe on the coffee table which means you having to walk around for a few weeks with a splint made from a lollipop stick.
What do these all have in common?
Each and every one of them takes you into a repetitive injury cycle that over time builds up in the background until you wake up several years’ later feeling like you’ve just been hit by a truck. You see that twisted ankle may be due to that stubbed toe, and it may sound strange to hear but that twisted ankle could be what’s causing you to have back problems and constant headaches now.

Road to recovery

Ok, I lied. This article is indeed going to be based around my experiences because sharing a story is the best way to make you think about your own journey, the format is simple. I’m going to tell you about a few of the Injuries I have had, the affects they had on my body and walk you through the basics of the treatment process sharing some mistakes, lessons I learned and offering some professional advice.

To keep things simple my advice will follow the following format; for each injury mentioned I will highlight one of the most common areas of weakness, the signs of an instability developing and offer an exercise to help prevent it becoming a major issue.
The rest of this article is going to follow the heads, shoulders, knees and toes format because when doing corrective exercise there are five key areas you look at. You nearly guessed right but they are in fact your head, torso, hips, knees and feet – but that doesn’t rhyme.

Getting a-head of the game

Growing up I played a lot of rugby and contact sports, such as boxing, are still some of my favourite pastimes. Nowadays when you talk about contact sports, concussion is usually at the forefront of the discussion and yes I have had a few over the years. What you don’t often hear is how contact sports can alter you head position and lead to a whole host of other injuries.
Those of you who regularly read these articles may have heard me talk about the Pelvo-occular reflex and now begin to understand how your head position can alter your gait, hip alignment and lead to back problems.

When I was less experienced I listened to coaches who knew their sport but didn’t understand anatomy and physiology. I was often told that the changes in my posture were just part of boxing as my head position changed; the trouble was that over time I started to get constant headaches and neck pain.
You see an altered head position, and increased frequency of headaches, is a sign of a muscular imbalance developing within your neck and addressing it before it goes any further can prevent problems such as muscular back pain from developing.
As your head migrates forwards muscles at the front of your body, such as your chest, become over active and begin to support the weight of your head whilst the muscles at the back of the body weaken. You may think it’s strange that a problem with your head is caused by muscles in your torso but this is a pattern that occurs all the time. A problem with one area of the body manifests in another whilst leading to more problems in a third part of the body, etc.
So, here’s a basic exercise called a chin tuck that will strengthen the muscles in the back of your neck and help restore the balance

Teaching Points:

• Place two fingers at the bottom of your chin.
• Gently tuck your chin in and retract your head backwards. At the same time, use your fingers to keep the chin tucked in the entire time.
• Hold the end position for 3 to 5 seconds.
• Relax your neck.
• Repeat for up to 3 sets of 15 reps

Taking the weight of the world on your shoulders:

Ah yes shoulder issues. I have had so many shoulder problems over the years that to this day I still have to actively treat them with corrective exercise. You see, the first time I had a shoulder injury was shortly after my brush with death as surprise, surprise, 16-year-old Simon rushed back into things before he knew what he was doing.

I can still remember dislocating my shoulder at school, and in my panic deciding to relocate it myself so I didn’t miss the school bus home. That night I went to the doctors to check if I had done it properly, (I had), and within a week I had begun physio. I have a lot of respect for physio’s, however once your treatment plan is done you probably know yourself that there isn’t any long-term support in place.
The second shoulder injury was another rugby related incident at university with yet another shoulder dislocation (different shoulder), and the process was pretty much the same. You get it put back in, go and see a physio, go through the same treatment plan and return to your life a few months later.
The third dislocation occurred jumping into a pool, the fourth in the shower and each time it was that same process of hospital, physio and return to life. But at this point I had had enough and wanted to learn how to break the cycle.

The red flags for an impending shoulder injury were obvious in hindsight. One of them is that clicking sound you often hear when rolling your shoulders and that’s your tendons catching on your collar bone and vibrating like a guitar string. It means that the muscles in one area are overactive, altering how the ball and socket sits in the joint making your shoulder less stable. The more often you injure the shoulder the less stable it becomes.

One of the easiest ways to address this is to strengthen your rotator cuff and rhomboids so that your arm is better supported and the tendons are pulled back into their correct position. If you have been fortunate enough to catch it before an injury occurs than you may be able to prevent yourself from ever having to undergo bouts of physio whereas if you’ve finished a physio scheme you can help reduce the long-term risk of a repeat injury.

For myself it’s been about four years since I last had a shoulder dislocation and I am hyper aware of the clicking sounds in my shoulder position and actively take steps to protect myself every day. Below is one of my favourite exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff called an external rotation with a wall.

Teaching Points:

• Stand side on to the wall or an open door with your arm down by your side and elbow bent.
• Place the outside of your hand against the wall.
• Keeping your elbow tucked in at the side try to drive your hand through the wall away from your body.
• Hold for 5 seconds
• Relax and repeat 15 times each arm

Staying Hip:

The lumbar pelvic hip complex is made up of your pelvis and lower spine and usually the first place you think of when back pain is mentioned. Now unlike the other areas, my hip problems are much more relatable because sitting at the dining room table for the past few months left me with an excessive forward lean which manifested in a pain in the lower back.
Imbalances in the hip complex are weird and guess what, complex. This is because a muscle that is too tight here or one that is too loose there means that suddenly most of your bodyweight is going through one leg at an odd angle and your entire upper torso is being supported by a small part of your spinal cord.

The biggest red flag for problems with your hip complex is back pain.
Yes you heard right, your back pain is a symptom of something else and a sign that you need to start moving more and do some stretching. My favourite stretch for this is the bow pose as you can do it in bed and it mitigates most of the damage caused by being sat at your desk for too long.

Teaching points:

• Lie face-down on the floor, with your hands beside your chest, and your feet shoulder-width apart.
• Keeping your shoulders back and core engaged, bend your knees, reach back, and grab the tops of your feet with your hands (If possible). Keep your legs as parallel as possible.
• Kick your feet into your palms and lift your chest, holding the stretch for 30 second.

Taking an arrow to the knee

Full disclosure, my knees are absolutely messed up. Shattering your femur and having it screwed back together does that to you without even mentioning the nerve damage. My right knee would make that monster Frankenstein blush (not to be confused with Adam whom he created) as the surgeons worked their magic enough so that I can walk, run and annoy you all with rambling articles. So, when I say that knee problems are my speciality believe me, because I am 29 and have had to live with one for 13 years.
Your knees are one of the most likely places to get injured through the combination of them taking all your weight and being vulnerable to side impacts. My own femur shattered, was twisted around and had to be put back together again but the biomechanics of fixing the problem afterwards and reducing injury risk are the same.
The red flag this time? Well here are two; pain in your knees, and your feet pointing out to the sides.
To stabilise and support your knee it is important to understand that the muscles on the outside of your thigh, such as the tensor fascia late and IT band, often become overactive and alter the joint mechanics. Once again I’m going to give you a stretch that should help reduce the risk of you getting hurt, so giver the IT band stretch a go.

Teaching points:

• Stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart
• To stretch your right IT Band, cross your right leg behind your left leg.
• Keeping both feet on the ground, lean to your left side and push your right hip outwards.
• Pause when you feel a stretch
• Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds
• Repeat on the opposite side
Showing your ankles
Plantar fasciitis, good grief it sucks. I got it a few years ago after doing a 30-mile hike in the moors with no training and the wrong footwear. Looking back it was a dumb thing to do, but over confidence is one of the major follies of youth.
Ankle injuries are part and parcel of the modern world. You wear shoes that alter your biomechanics, you play sports that rely on twisting and turning and you often forget to look where you put your feet.
Unlike everything else their aren’t really any red flags I can think of off the top of my head, but I did notice that if you spend some time improving your balance then you’re less likely to stumble or put your foot down awkwardly so to finish off todays tips here’s an exercise called a clock reach.

Teaching points:

• Begin by holding on to a chair with your left hand.
• Visualize a clock with 12 in front and 6 behind.
• Stand on your left leg and bring your right arm to 12 o’clock.
• Then reach to 3 and 6 o’clock.
• Repeat with the other side.

And that concludes today’s tips. Over the past decade I’ve collected thousands of exercises to help hundreds of condition, most of which I have learned through gaining the qualifications to fix myself.

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