Should You Still Exercise While Injured?
Not being able to regularly exercise while rehabilitating from an injury can be very frustrating. Continuing to train in some capacity can make the process much more manageable.
Before you attempt to exercise through an injury, make sure that you are addressing your pain or injury with a professional healthcare provider. Whatever you're going through is specific to you, so working with a healthcare professional is always a good plan to find out what kind of activities you can still participant in while recovering.
The following are some basic recommendations that will help you continue to exercise while recovering from an ailment.
#1 Your Activities Should be Virtually Pain-Free
The first recommendation is that whatever exercise you are doing while injured must be tolerable and pain-free.
For example, maybe you are rehabilitating an elbow injury. Riding a stationary bike might cause your elbow pain. If so, you should stop this exercise.
Continued irritation to a tissue that's trying to heal (even mild consistent pain) can prolong recovery time. Try to follow this rule; if there is no pain during the exercise and no pain or soreness after the exercise, then it is usually safe to perform.
If you ride your bike hard on Monday morning with no pain but cannot walk on Tuesday because you irritated your ankle that you previously sprained, then this exercise cannot be considered pain free.
#2 Make Modifications.
The second recommendation with exercising while injured is to modify. You likely can modify specific movements you are doing to make sure they remain pain-free.
Here a few examples of how to modify your exercises to become pain-free:
1. You may be doing full range squats and find them to be painful. Try completing the squat into a shortened range or using a leg press machine to make it more pain free.
2. You find that while lifting weights, heavy sets of 5 reps of overhead presses are painful. Modify this by lightening the weight and doing sets of 15 – 30.
3. You are playing racquetball and doing backhand shots becomes painful. Try doing only forehand shots in the short term until you have recovered.
Finding movements you can modify to make them pain free is a key part of continuing to exercise while injured.
Another part of your training is to modify the volume. Simply decreasing your running distance from 30 miles a week to 15 miles a week may allow you to run pain-free while rehabilitating your injury. Decreasing the load placed on a tissue can help prevent tissue damage.
#3 Maintain your Cardiovascular Health
The third recommendation is to maintain your cardiovascular health while taking time away from another activity due to injury.
Try a non-painful or non-impact form of cardiovascular exercise and use that to maintain your fitness levels. Using a rowing machine or biking instead of running are easy ways to maintain fitness levels without creating impact or irritation on an injury depending on its location.
Performing pain-free cardiovascular exercise can also help to prevent unwanted weight gain. This is frequently a side effect of having to stop your usual exercise routine because of an injury.
Another benefit of cardiovascular exercise is that it will increase your overall blood flow. This can help bring oxygen and nutrients to the injured area and help with healing.
#4 Focus on Core Strength
The fourth recommendation is to focus on core and hip strength if your injury is preventing you from participating in your favorite activity.
One way to strengthen your core with little movement is to perform 5-8 sets of 15-30 second front planks, side planks and hip bridges. Doing basic isometric exercises for time, that target many core muscles, can be a great strength routine. Since there are minimal moving parts to those exercises they can often be safe for most clients.
Before We're Done, Don't Forget...
You should definitely work with a healthcare professional that can guide you through what specific modifications you can make. There are likely several professionals in your area that can help design a plan for you which will allow you to continue to train while rehabilitating from your injury.
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