Most people when they sustain an injury will stop training all together. Whether it be due to instruction from a Physio, or fear of worsening the injury, the common belief is to rest rest and more rest until the injury has improved. While this is true to some extent, the amount of rest required is largely misunderstood. Below I have listed my main tips for being able to safely continue training whilst injured, and possibly come out the other end fitter and stronger than you were before!
Diagnosis by Physio:
The most important thing to do first is to consult an injury specialist such as a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist. A clear diagnosis of the injury is required before you can make an educated decision on what movements/exercises to avoid. Once the injury is properly diagnosed it is easy to avoid anything that will aggravate the injury further. The simplest example of this is that if you are diagnosed with a broken wrist, you can of course continue to run and cycle without worsening the injury.
Listen to your Body:
When you start to get back into a modified routine as outlined by a professional, one of the most important things to do is listen to your body! If it hurts don’t do it. Obvious right? Not so much. The body has immediate pain signals that are sent to the brain when something hurts immediately. However, there are also delayed signals that may be sent hours after or even days after you have overdone movement with an injured area. Therefore my advice is always to assess your level of pain DURING the workout, IMMEDIATELY AFTER the workout, and in the next TWO DAYS following. If you pass all these tests without pain, then you are in the clear to progress to a heavier weight or more difficult exercise. Which takes me to the next point.
The best way to describe this is with an example. Lets say that you have a have a strained hamstring muscle. After consulting a therapist and receiving proper treatment, the therapist tells you that you are allowed to start jogging again. The progressions would go as follows.
- Day 1: Jog for 2 mins.
- Day 2: REST & ASSESS
- Day 3: Jog for 4 mins.
- Day 4: REST & ASSESS
- Day 5: Jog for 6 mins.
- Day 6: REST & ASSESS
- Day 7: Jog for 8 mins.
- Day 8: REST & ASSESS
- Day 9: Jog for 10 mins.
- Day 10: REST & ASSESS
Slow progressions will mean that your chance of re-injury are controlled and reduced. Similarly the “rest and assess” days are necessary for the area to repair and reduce the likelihood of over training. This creates a very controlled environment where you can recognise potential dangers. In the above example, if you were to get to 8 mins without any adverse affects, but then on the 10 min jog you felt some pain in the hamstring, you would stop, have adequate rest and then go back to 6 or 8 mins and try again.
For most injuries there is a set timeframe that it takes to heal. For example a broken bone will take 6-8 weeks, and usually a sprain will take 4-8 weeks. However there are some injuries that have a more uncertain timeframe, for example a tendon injury (tendon is the connective tissue joining a muscle to a bone, like the achilles tendon). Which injuries such as tendon problems, the underlying problem can still be there without you even feeling pain. This is why so many people will have chronic injuries. My advice here is of course to see a Physio and have a proper diagnosis. Then develop a training program that will not only cater for the injured structure, but will not further aggravate it. There are some tricks that we have as therapists to allow you to keep training the injured structure but they must only be done under professional supervision.
So overall there are some things which you can do to continue with your hard earned fitness and strength goals whilst waiting for an injury to resolve. If you are interested in discussing an injury and the possibility of training whilst it is healing, call us on (02) 9999 6666.
Please consult a professional before starting any fitness or strength program.