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Planning Retirement Online

Party without pain

  June 2008   


How to stay well as the oldest swinger at the festival

Over 50s are still flocking to summer music festivals. But at our age, it’s worth taking a little extra care while you’re boogying.

concert-hands-in-airThousands of people are treated at music festivals every year for a variety of medical conditions. What was (physically) harmless fun back in the sixties is a little more tricky three or four decades later.

Fortunately, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists has produced a festival survival guide to partying without pain.

With great line-ups and the prospect of a warm summer looking good, festival goers can expect to have a lot of fun this year. But if you’re going to Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight Festival, Download, Latitude or Womad, bear in mind that alongside the fun, medics see a horribly large number of preventable injuries such as sprains, strains, and other soft tissue injuries.

‘Changes to your ordinary routine, such as camping, long days walking around the site, standing up for long periods and dancing in crowded conditions, are leading causes of festival discomfort and can get worse as the weekend progresses, says Jill Canney, physiotherapy co-ordinator for Festival Medical Services.

‘Then there is the laid back experience of tent life. Sitting and sleeping on the hard ground can exacerbate or lead to neck and back problems. Alcohol also certainly plays its part; it’s a great muscle relaxant and as the body unwinds, people will be unaware of the pressure they are putting on their joints.’

Jill says people who have a tendency for neck problems should consider bringing something suitable to use as a firm pillow to support their head and neck at night. They should also bring a camping mat to make lying on the ground comfortable and warm.

The frenetic side of festival life can also bring problems. Dancing for hours, perhaps in the crowd in front of the stage where there is the likelihood of being stamped on or barged, knocked or body-surfed over can also cause injuries.

‘Dancing, especially when combined with mood enhancing substances, can put a strain on the body which might not be realised until the following day. If it’s hot, the ground can become hard, which makes dancing a high impact activity. A wet day can bring an increase in groin and hamstring strains from slipping in the mud when dancing or just walking around.’

Here’s the CSP’s guide

Getting there: Take care when travelling to the festival. Take regular rest periods during your journey. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water travelling to and during the festival. Space is at a premium in rucksacks and so you should prioritise what to bring to a festival. Don’t carry more than you need.

Medications & Sunblock: If you suffer from asthma, don’t forget to bring your inhaler and remember to use it. If you suffer from hayfever, don’t forget to take your antihistamines. Festival life is also about enjoying being outdoors – make sure you’ve got sun-screen with you.

Footwear: Good comfortable, supportive and waterproof footwear is essential to avoid ankle sprains from walking across fields or uneven ground. Take care if the ground is muddy and wet to avoid slipping. If it is cold, wet weather, muscles can be strained from walking all day in several inches of mud!

Putting up with tent life: Try to bring something supportive to sit or lie on as hard ground can exacerbate or create back and neck problems. Think carefully about what you will use for a pillow at night. It needs to support your head and neck well enough. Something that can roll up into a reasonable neck support is fine, such as a thick fleece. Not supporting your head or sleeping in an awkward position, especially under the influence of alcohol, can bring on a stiff neck. 
? Take a good quality camping mat with you. This can help prevent stiffness from having slept on a cold, hard floor.

Dancing all hours: Prolonged dancing, especially if you’re not used to it can put a strain on the body, which will not be realised until the following day. If it is a hot day and the ground is hard, dancing can become a high impact activity so your footwear needs to be able to cope with this. A cold, wet day can increase the risk of groin and hamstring strains from slipping in the mud.

A sudden increase in activity levels can sometimes prove too much for people unaccustomed to exercise. Dancing all night (perhaps with someone on your shoulders!) can seem fun at the time and make it easier to ignore an injury. So –

  • Wear supportive, comfortable and waterproof shoes or trainers, preferably with high shock absorption.

  • Those with chronic back conditions should avoid body surfing and crowd crushes at the front of stages.

  • Be aware of your physical limitations and fitness level and use a little common sense without spoiling your fun!

Help for injuries and the PRICE principle: If soft-tissue injuries do occur, drop in at the medical centres at the festivals where advice can be sought and injuries treated. The Festival Medical Services physiotherapy team (attending Glastonbury, The Glade and Reading festivals) can also provide information on where to seek follow-up treatment when you get home.

In the event of an injury to the lower body, FMS physiotherapists will have a good stock of crutches at the medical tents to use if you are having difficulty weight bearing.

If you are aware of the onset of a strain or sprain, the first line of treatment in general is PRICE –

Protection – support the injured part by taping or strapping to protect against further damage. Seek expert help and advice here, as poor strapping can make some injuries worse.

Rest – continuing to exercise a damaged muscle, joint or ligament can turn a minor problem into a major one. A rest from high-impact activity for the first 72 hours following injury helps promote healing – so stop dancing at once!

Ice – apply some ice (wrapped in a damp tea towel to prevent ice burns) immediately for 20-30 minutes and repeat every two hours. Reduce the time to 10-20 minutes if you are applying ice over a bony area like your ankle. Applying heat during the first 72 hours is not advisable.

Compression – a compression bandage will help reduce swelling. However, if applied too tightly the bandage can affect the healing process and make injuries last for longer. Make sure you use a stretchy bandage and don’t apply it too tightly. If unsure seek medical advice.

Elevation – elevate the injured part whenever possible. Ideally this should be above the level of your heart. If the injured area can be elevated do not apply compression at the same time.



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