Most of us who try to maintain at least a moderate level of fitness through exercise or physical training of some kind will experience some form of discomfort, aches and pains etc. as a result of the activity we have chosen to indulge in (perhaps caused by a slip or by trying to lift a heavy weight). It’s almost inevitable. However, actual ’injury’ from exercising is also something that can happen even to the most careful person.
One reason why we warm up before a session is to prepare our bodies (and minds to a certain extent ) for the activity to come and the cool down afterwards is to avoid the sudden tightening of muscles etc. when we stop. Practicing these properly can help to avoid injuries. Follow JOINT MOBILISATION – MUSCLE WARMING – DYNAMIC STRETCHES
The key action point is to ‘manage your injury’.
Too many people don’t follow this principle and end up exacerbating the problem and increasing the recovery period, resulting in increasing the amount of time they have to spend away from their exercise regime.
One thing you should never do is return to exercise too soon: If you think you’re fine and the problem appears to have gone away, it pays to delay your ‘come back’ for a few more days.
When seeing the Doctor is a good call
The first action when feeling that you may have an injury is to consider if you should seek medical advice. You’ll be the best judge of that and certainly, if you have any of the following symptoms you should contact your doctor immediately:
• Pain that stops you sleeping at night.
• Pain that doesn’t seemed to get better after a few days.
• Tingling or numbness in an area that persists over a few days.
• Sudden pain which travels down your arms or legs.
• A sign of weakness in your limbs (not necessarily painful).
• Weight loss or high temperature which has appeared suddenly.
Assuming your physical condition does not include any of those examples above then here are some of the most common categories of injury experienced by regular exercisers:
• Sudden trauma – e.g. twisting your ankle or pulling a muscle during a lifting exercise. If it hurts a lot and there’s significant bruising then you’ll know that you should probably see the doctor.
• Overuse – generally you notice a sudden pain and can almost immediately identify the cause.
• Repetitive stress – difficult to identify one particular cause because the problem appears over a period of time and may manifest itself when you’re doing something unconnected with the part of the body that has been injured.
• Exhausted Adaptive Potential – this can come about due to the healing of a previous injury not being managed or treated properly. It can also be caused by your body adapting to compensate for the problems caused by the earlier injury. Again, this might be a problem where the site of the pain is unconnected with the injured area (referred pain)
So how do you manage injuries?
Not every injury is the same, so it’s important to use the right approach in your particular situation.
Most of you have heard of the various ‘Etiquettes’ for managing injuries: RICE (Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation) or POLICE (Protection-Optimal Loading-Ice-Compression-Elevation) or MEAT (Movement-Exercise-Analgesics-Treatment).
So “Which one should I use?” I hear you ask!
‘RICE’ is one that’s been around for years and suggests we rest, elevate the injured area, put ice on it and compress the area. This has its uses but, as I have said, it has fallen out of favour with many trainers and coaches.
‘POLICE’ adds movement of the area at issue on top of the traditional RICE procedure, but rest and icing are still of major importance.
‘MEAT’ recommends using general movement and specific exercises to encourage the ‘damaged’ area to move healthily, combined with painkillers if needed.
One key question for people managing injuries is when to rest and when to keep moving.
Movement is generally considered to be the best approach but obviously this isn’t necessarily the case with all injuries and some will tend to heal more quickly if they are rested.
For Traumatic injuries which have required attention from a doctor you’ll probably be advised to rest. But if you didn’t need to see a specialist, you may find that a few days or up to a couple of weeks’ rest with cautious or moderate exercise towards the end may work best for you.
If you’re managing an injury caused by Overuse it really is important that you use rest to improve the situation and hopefully the affected area will feel better within a few days, allowing you to contemplate starting gentle exercise again. This time, though, avoid problems caused by overuse by keeping to a planned routine – maybe ask your PT for advice. There is always SOMETHING we can do, and keep other areas of your body conditioned whilst you recover.
If the issue is Repetitive Stress, again, a PT can advise on suitable exercises and movements to help you avoid causing more damage by strengthening the areas in question.
When we come to Exhausted Adaptive Potential Injury this is most effectively managed by avoiding exercising and obtaining a medical professional’s opinion on how to proceed.
In summary, unless the problem is such that it needs the intervention of a specialist, the prevailing guidance in most cases is that some degree of movement is better than total rest.
And, as always, as I am qualified in Adapting Exercise for Controlled Conditions, you can hit me up for recommendations for your very own, personalised ‘Rehab. Plan’