“How do I prevent myself from getting injured?”

Therapists are familiar with this question, and the answer is complex. Accidents happen, and oftentimes, even with the best monitoring techniques, no one sees them coming. That being said, you can reduce your risk of injury by being prepared.

Before we talk about how to prepare, let’s consider why injuries might happen to start with. You can get hurt when the demand or load that is placed on the body exceeds your capacity or tolerance to accept load.

What is the difference between demand and Capacity


Demand is any external stress placed on the body. For example, the demand on a runner might be the distance they run or the surface they run on. Capacity is your body’s ability to accept the external stress and perform according to it. For the runner, their capacity would be internal factors that buffer the forces from impact and keep the individual moving forward.

When the body does not have the capacity to meet the demand of the activity, the risk of injury will increase. As you can see, there are many factors that influence demand and capacity, which makes it increasingly difficult to prevent injuries from happening. However, we can reduce the risk of injury by paying close attention to the relationship between demand and capacity.

Increasing ones capacity has far greater benefits than reducing demand. Increasing capacity requires freedom of movement, which depends on the available ranges of motion in each joint. The brain-joint map analogy helps us understand this point further.


Your Brain is like a map

Every joint in the body is represented in the brain like a map. Some joints take up more real estate than others. As you develop from infancy into adulthood, you explore various ranges of motion through activity and play.

As you continue to explore various ranges of motion, the map for each joint becomes more vivid. Think of moving to a new city: At first, the area is unfamiliar and you may not know your way around by heart, but the more you visit the same locations, the more familiar you become with the route. As time goes by, some individuals stop exploring ranges of motion or areas of the map. When you stop exploring regions of the map, your brain starts to forget how to navigate that area. After a while, that area of the joint map becomes unfamiliar territory. Years down the road, if you are forced into this unfamiliar territory, you may encounter obstacles with limited capacity to navigate them.


For example, if you are fairly sedentary and decide to take up a recreational sport, you may be asking your joints to perform in positions that haven’t been explored in several years. Exploring an unfamiliar range of motion (or territory of a joint map) in a fast-paced environment can lead to injury. Teach your body to navigate itself with greater confidence, thereby lowering your risk of injury, by first exploring various ranges of motion in a controlled and safe environment. A joint-by-joint assessment from a qualified manual therapist is a great first step in knowing which joints in your body are restricted in range of motion.

Manual therapy to the rescue

Manual therapy such as massage, joint mobilizations or chiropractic adjustments can be applied to joints to improve range of motion. Tools such as RockTape can help the brain navigate the range of motion more efficiently. Going back to the brain-joint map analogy, RockTape can be thought of as a GPS tool that provides the brain with additional information regarding available route options.

Once joint range of motion is improved, an exercise routine can then be prescribed to help maintain the newly acquired range of motion. Range of motion exercises can also be implemented in your warm up to prepare each joint for activity. Here is An example of a basic shoulder range of motion warm-up.

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Ricky Singh, Chiropractor, Trainer, and RockTape ambassador