Hello, everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and feeling great. Let’s face it, though. Some of you may not be. It’s possible that some of you may be dealing with some sort of injury. Two weeks ago, we talked about chronic pain and what to do about it. If you haven’t read that post you can find it here:
Today I want to talk about injuries. First let’s clarify the difference between chronic pain and an injury. Chronic pain is when something is hurting on a somewhat regular basis. Let’s say when you move your arm in a particular way and you feel something in your shoulder. Another indicator that it’s chronic pain is that you can’t exactly pinpoint when it started.
An injury is marked by the fact that something specific happened. You got hit with something, or fell down or something like that. Now there may be some gray area in those descriptions but let’s keep things as simple as we can today.
Leatherface wants to cause an injury.
I hope that clarifies things a little bit. What I’d like to talk about today is two things: How to prevent injuries and also how to get over and deal with them.
Let’s start with how to prevent them.
Preventing an Injury
First, common sense tells us that there are certain injuries that just can’t be prevented. Things do happen from time to time. That being said, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself the best you can. Let’s talk about two of them.
The first is to get stronger.
Strength helps protect your joints and bones.
Strength training improves bone density so possible injury causing events, such as a fall, don’t result in broken bones. (This helps with osteoperosis as well.)
Strength training builds lean tissue which will also help cushion you in case of a fall.
Strength training will allow you to recover faster because YOU ARE STRONGER.
Strength training can ingrain and strengthen proper movement patterns which may help you avoid injury in the first place.
The last one kind of bridges us into the next way you can prevent injuries.
Work on proper movement.
This is when what we talked about with chronic pain comes into play. There are many times something may seem like an injury but it’s just the result of weeks or even years of poor movement patterns that add up. We’ve all heard about someone whose back popped when they were bending over to pick up a pencil, right? Do you really think it was the overwhelming weight of the pencil that caused the injury? Of course not, it was the hundreds of times that person rounded their back instead of used their hips to pick something up. That’s what really did it.
That leads us into what to do when we’re injured.
Treating an Injury
Of course, there is a very wide range of things that constitute injuries. A broken leg is going to be treated differently than a strained rotator cuff. That being said there a few principles that are somewhat universal.
The first is simple.
Don’t do it if it hurts.
That being said, just because something hurts it doesn’t mean the exercise itself is bad. It might be that your form isn’t right. An easy example would be if your shoulder hurts while doing a dumbell row. It’s probably because you’re elevating your shoulder instead of bringing it back and down.
Working on those kinds of form adjustments feeds into what we were talking about with ingraining proper movements patterns.
The second thing you should do is something. What do I mean by that? Sometimes I’ll see someone injure their knee for example, and then stop doing anything at all. This is exactly the wrong approach. There is certainly a time to rest after an injury, but generally speaking that time is fairly short even if you can’t really use the injured body part. If you have a a broken leg you still have another leg, two arms, a chest, back, shoulders, and core.
The bottom line is that you need to keep moving. The benefit of this is that it keeps your body working which keeps your internal systems working which speeds up recovery! Inactivity just shuts everything down. That is not good. Patients are even asked to move within a few hours of full joint replacement surgery at times.
To understand the biggest benefit of this you have to understand that the body operates on a “move it or lose it” principle. That means that if you neglect movement the body will respond by making it harder and harder to move. Eventually it will shut it down completely. A small scale version of this happens whenever you sit for long periods of time. I’m sure you notice that you feel stiff when you stand up. Over time this leads to tight hips, tight shoulders, a tight back, etc. Imagine what would happen if you stopped doing everything because of an injury.
The key principles really come down to this:
Use as much pain-free movement in the injured area as possible, and
Continue with good overall movement as soon as possible.
I also want to talk about the mental approach to injury recovery and the benefit of resuming movement as soon as possible. One of the worst aspects of an injury is simply the fear of getting injured again. That is certainly a justifiable fear but it is crucial that you don’t let it get in the way. This doesn’t mean to disregard common sense and exercise through pain but it is important not to develop a sense of fragility that impedes your recovery. Over time that will lead to many worse issues.
Having said all this, it is of course important that you follow your doctor’s instructions if you are recovering from an injury.
Let me know if you have any questions about this. It’s a complicated and sometimes emotional subject but if you move forward properly that should help in the long run.