How can you exercise around injury?
Learn how to properly assess an injury and modify exercise to allow for full recovery.
Learn about exercise guidelines for training around pain or injury.
Can You Exercise Around an Injury?
Whether your injury is minor (muscle strain) or major (torn ligament) ranging from temporary strains to ACL, MCL, LCL, and PCL injuries (see Knee Injury for more on specific knee injury), you're not doomed to weeks of riding the couch and watching television. The decision to continue exercising is up to you and your doctor and only requires a little planning and a lot of common sense.
When it comes to exercise and sports related injuries, your first step is always to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Exercising with chronic pain is a recipe for disaster and may turn a temporary problem into a permanent one. Once you visit your doctor, talk to him or her about how to work around your injury. Below are some ideas to share with your doctor. Think twice before ingnoring an injury. Train smart so you won't lose your gains in strength--for which you have worked so hard!
1. Don't do any activity involving your injured body part.
If you have a knee, shin or foot injury you may not be able to run or ride your bike, but there's no reason you can't continue exercising your upper body.
Your focus should be on modifying your workout so that you perform the exercises while seated or laying down so as not to put pressure on the injured joint or muscle. If you have an upper body injury, such as your shoulder, collarbone, lower back or elbow, why not concentrate on lower body exercises? You can modify by doing exercises that don't involve holding weights in your hands or on your shoulders and simply stick with machines that don't involve your upper body. Ask your doctor and Simplefit trainer about continuing a resistance program that avoids further injury.
2. If it Hurts, Don't Do it
This seems simple but, if you're anything like me, you tend to exercise even when your body is telling you to stop. Even if you're following an exercise plan recommended by your doctor, if you feel any pain in the joints or anywhere else, stop. You may be able to move on to a different exercise that doesn't hurt, or you may have to stop altogether. Either way, learning to listen to your body is vital to staying injury and pain free.
3. Follow Your Doctor's Advice
If you're determined to exercise, ask your doctor for a list of activities you can do to stay active without injuring yourself further. He or she may be able to recommend a physical therapist or trainer to help you determine what exercises you can do to both heal your injury and strengthen the rest of your body.
4. Prevention of injury
Obviously, prevention is the best choice when it comes to injuries. Once you experience the pain of an injury, you might want to educate yourself on ways to avoid them in the future. One simple way is to maintain Functional and CORE flexibility and balance. (See our Functional Fitness page) Tight muscles can cause imbalances in your body that could lead to injuries. For example, if your quadriceps (front of the leg) are stronger than your hamstrings (back of the leg), you risk a strain or even a rupture of your hamstrings. Another way to prevent injuries is to avoid overtraining.
When your muscles are tired, they "do a poor job of protecting their associated connective tissues, increasing the risk of damage to bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments." To fortify yourself even more against injuries, make sure you incorporate regular weight training into your weekly routine. Strengthening ALL of your muscle groups will reduce any muscle imbalances that may cause other muscles of your body to overcompensate for that weakness.
Here are a few tips for recognizing simple injuries:
- First, joint pain, particularly in the joints of the knee, ankle, elbow and wrist, should never be ignored. This type of pain typically originates from the joint rather than the muscle and may be a sign of something serious. Another warning sign is tenderness at a specific point in the body.
- If you can elicit pain at a specific point in a bone, muscle or joint, by pressing your finger into it, you may have a significant injury.
- Another symptom never to ignore is swelling.
Swelling is always a sign of some type of injury. You can also experience swelling within the joint, which may be harder to see. If you do have swelling in the joint, your range of motion will be reduced and your joint may feel tight.
It is recommended that we compare both sides of the body. If one side acts differently than the other, you may have joint swelling. Finally, never ignore numbness or tingling in your body. This may be a sign of nerve compression, which might be a prelude to a serious injury.
If you experience any of these symptoms your first step is to stop what you're doing and call your doctor. Never work through the pain! Dealing with an injury right away may mean a little recovery time, but that's better than having a permanent condition. While waiting to get in to see your doctor, you can also start a little treatment on your own. The usual treatment involves R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation).
All this means is that you should stop what you're doing and use a bandage to compress the injured area (which can help reduce swelling). Then put an ice pack on the affected area for about 15 or 20 minutes at a time, making sure to give the injured area plenty of time to warm up between icing sessions. Then, elevate the area. Always consult your Doctor when questioning pain, injury or any “nagging” experience with possible injury. This and any article in our website on injury, disease or dysfunction is intended to inform - not to diagnose, treat or advise.