By Dr. Zack Allen, ND

Dr. Zack Allen, ND

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live on the Garden Isle of Kaua‘i love to stay active. However, maintaining a healthy body free of pain and injury is a challenge shared by all Kaua‘i surfers, paddlers, hikers, runners, dancers, weight-lifters and other athletes.

The keys to injury-free fitness for active locals are proper nutrition, hydration, sufficient warm-ups and correct body mechanics. Here are some tips for maximizing success and enjoyment, while minimizing down time due to injury.

Fuel Activities with Proper Nutrition

Shopping at the various farmers markets and picking tropical fruit from our trees, provides a cornucopia of colorful plant-based nutrients that an active body needs. Be sure to fuel workouts with complex carbohydrates from leafy greens before exercising, and follow each workout with lean protein to provide muscles with the raw materials they need to stay strong.

Stay Hydrated

Here on Kaua‘i, with its warm climate and abundant sunshine, frequent hydration is essential. Fatigue, headaches, mood swings and muscle cramping can result from improper hydration. Drink filtered water from glass containers whenever possible. A rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces (e.g. 100 ounces a day for a 200 lb person), plus however much fluid you are losing through perspiration on any given day. When sweating is prolonged or profuse, remember that you are losing more than just water. Coconut water replenishes electrolytes lost in sweat.

Take Care of Joints, Ligaments

Knee injuries are common in runners, hikers and dancers. Overuse injuries result from repeated impact due to flexing, jumping and landing at odd angles. The body can typically withstand such activities to a point with good body mechanics and alignment of the spine and extremities. However, when there is point pain, this often suggests that the knees have loose or injured ligaments, allowing the knees to become unstable due to the inflammation and wearing down of its structures. The meniscus absorbs some impact in the knee, and is also prone to tearing. A qualified sports injury specialist can assess and treat most knee problems of this kind.

Use Correct Body Mechanics

Surfers and weightlifters often injure their necks, backs and shoulders. Improper shoulder mechanics can impinge rotator cuff muscles, causing tendon tears and chronic shoulder pain with weakness. This can plague athletes at any level. Competitive athletes and weekend warriors of all ages rely heavily on the integrity, strength and durability of their joints. Warming up gradually and stretching before and after working out or competing is essential, as is seeking proper care for muscle and tendon sprains, ligament strains, and tears to the connective tissues in the joints.

Joints are able to heal faster when they are properly aligned. When joints are misaligned, stress and friction occur, much like what happens to your car when it is out of alignment. In the body, pain and weakness in the joint alert the nervous system to inhibit the strength of the muscles attaching to the injured joint. When a joint returns to proper alignment, and the ligaments are strong enough to maintain that alignment, muscles can fully engage, and the athlete can perform without pain or weakness in the joint. Effective spinal manipulation is not always adequate.

Ice Is Not Always the Answer

When a sports injury has not healed fully after several weeks of rest and homecare with ice and anti-inflammatories, it’s time to seek alternatives. Ice and anti-inflammatories are often helpful initially, but they can also prevent the joints from healing properly. Nutritional supplements such as fish oil, turmeric and proteolytic enzymes will provide better results than ice and anti-inflammatories and will help to prevent future injuries. Ice is only appropriate immediately following an injury. It’s best to alternate hot and cold applications, always ending with cold. Walking and other light exercise, when possible, allow fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients into the joints, and pump lactic acid and other waste products out of the muscles.

Ligaments and tendons have a notoriously poor blood supply, which can allow minor injuries to worsen and cause chronic pain. Effective treatments such as prolotherapy, ozone (prolozone), platelet rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections can regenerate your joints when they aren’t healing on their own. Regenerative injection therapy (RIT) can get you back to the hobbies, sports and lifestyle that you enjoy and value. Each of these injection types will be thoroughly reviewed in future articles.

Whether you love catching waves, working out, playing sports or dancing hula, following the guidelines discussed above, and checking in with a healthcare professional who understands the demands you place on your body, will enable you to stay in the game and heal quickly and efficiently after inevitable sports injuries.

  • Zack Allen, ND practices at the Natural Health Clinic in Līhu‘e and is currently available by appointment. Visit for more information.



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