December 14, 2011
By JJ Patton M.D.
Anybody who has spent significant time fishing can tell you that aches and pains are a part of the game. Pain can lead to increased stress on your mind and body, which may lead to poor concentration, missed fish and the inability to make precise presentations necessary for success. Multiple muscle groups are used throughout the day starting with loading the boat and ending with the drive home.
Here are some tips that may help make your fishing more enjoyable and productive by simply taking care of yourself:
Taking Care of Back Pain
For those old in age or body, when your back starts screaming here are some tips to help decrease your pain and make your day/season more enjoyable: Strengthen back and abdominal muscles by stretching, sit-ups, walking, or light jogging. Elliptical machines or low impact aerobics are useful for those who have difficulty with higher impact exercises.
Stretch Every Day
Calves, hamstrings, quads, back, stomach, even arms need a good stretch. Stretch slowly every day at least once or twice for 10-15 min. Start now while you’re off the water and you will be surprised how much more flexibility you’ll have by the spring fishing season.
When In Pain
Ice painful areas when sore and apply heat to help relax the muscles. Give this a try prior to stretching (a hot shower or bath to loosen the muscles). A word of caution, heat may make some inflammation worse but if you have spasms heat always helps. The old athletic trainer adage is heat before/ice after activity. A hot shower the morning of a tournament or fishing day will do wonders to improve your enjoyment of the day.
Take Regular Doses of Anti-Inflammatory Medicines
Nsaids (Motrin/ibuprofen/Advil/Aleve) all work well but do carry some side effects and risks with long term use. You have to take them regularly and in fairly high doses to help with inflammation. It’s important that you check with your doctor for proper dosage and possible medical issues that may interact with your other medications. Your physician may also be able to give you prescription strength medications which can save you money if you need to take these medications long-term.
This is a great option if your pain is severe. Increasing your range of motion and strengthening exercises helps in both the short and long term. Follow the home exercise program given to you for best results.
See A Chiropractor
A chiropractors can offer relief to those who suffer from chronic back. Go to one you trust and have them educate you about stretching and exercises you can do at home.
Work On the Ergonomic Design of Your Boat to Aid in Better Posture
A recessed foot peddle can do wonders. Smooth move or other "shock absorbing" seats can be easier on sore backs and standing upright instead of being hunched over is something we all need to work at. When you bend down and stand back up, use your knees and hips, not at your back. Try to avoid excess leaning to one side or forward for extended periods. Good footwear with support is a must, as is properly fitted rain or foul weather gear. Proper gear designed for fishermen by companies like Gill (www.gillna.com) or Simms (www.simmsfishing.com) will make a difference in weight distribution and comfort while on the water.
If weight is an issue, get that weight off! An extra 25 lbs. or more can be very stressful on all joints. Additionally, losing weight makes you healthier overall.
Repetitive injuries to hands, wrists, arms and shoulders can be prevented using a regular program of stretching and strengthening exercises. Also, having good equipment that is light and smooth will aid in preventing problems. A properly balanced rods is a must which is why I always use and recommend rods manufactured by Dobyns Rods (www.dobynsrods.com)
A properly balanced rod will ease the strain on joints and muscles and make it easier to fish longer. The balance of these rods is simply incredible and not only improves your presentation but eases the strain on your joints. Proper technique and “physiologic” movements instead of un-natural bending at the wrist especially will reduce problems. It is better if you rotate the reel to bend your wrist in flexion and extension than if you bend towards the thumb or pinky.
Most importantly: if you have pain don’t ignore it. Try to work on the mechanics and consider seeing your doctor for a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication or possible braces and/or ergonomic training through the doctor or a physical therapist.
Watch Your Exposure
Sun and cold weather exposure can cause short as well as long term problems. Sunburn can cause missed or miserable days on the water and lead to skin damage and disfiguring scars. Simple skin cancers may need to be removed and can result in scarring. Worse yet is melanoma, a life-threatening skin cancer that can spread to vital organs and require chemotherapy. Prevention is the best medicine so wear a good sunscreen of at least SPF 30 as well as hats and long sleeves and long pants. Many companies including Gill and Simms offer light weight, quick drying clothes which have built in SPF.
Cold and or wet weather can lead to a long, miserable day on the water and potentially produce nerve, muscle and circulation problems up to and including frostbite and amputation. Wicking clothing and wind/water proof gloves can increase your enjoyment and decrease your risk of these short and long term problems.
Increased sun exposure can damage the eyes, increasing your risk of glaucoma (the leading cause of blindness) and cataracts, which can interfere with vision and require surgical correction. A quality pair of polarized sunglasses with 100% ultraviolet protection will help limit the long term damage on the eyes as well as reduce eye strain and subsequent headaches on the water. A cheap pair of sunglasses actually will increase long term damage by dilating the pupil and allowing more damaging rays to come in Fishermen also experience a higher risk of being hit in the eye by a projectile or insect (or other debris on the water). Hitting a dragon fly at 70+ mph can damage your eye and ruin more than just your day. Quality, lightweight eyewear from companies such as Numa optics (www.extreme-sunglasses.com) will help ease eye and facial muscle strain and prevent long term problems. They even come with spare lenses and can be adjusted to current light and water conditions for best results.
It is very important to stay hydrated, even in cold weather. I you are thirsty it is already too late. Drink plenty of water and low sugar juices throughout the day. Don’t wait until tournament day. The average person needs about 80 ounces of non-alcohol, caffeine-free liquids per day. If you drink alcohol or caffeine (both can dehydrate you) you’ll need to supplement your daily income with more water. As for nutrition, common sense rules here. Frequent small snacks high in protein and complex carbohydrates throughout the day instead of simple sugars will allow your mind and body to function at its peak. Do not starve yourself and eat a good balanced breakfast prior to blast off.
So there you have it: 12 tips for the 12 days of Christmas to make you a better fisherman in 2012!
***Disclaimer*** Please consult your own physician prior to beginning any exercise program or any long term medication regimen (in other words I am not liable for your mistakes in self care and am providing this as a fellow fisherman- not your doctor)