Exercising while Injured?**

Monday, 10 June 2019, By Gwen Zaragoza

When someone undergoes an injury whether it came about through training, sport or simply doing activities of daily living, there is this misconception or fear that training should be discontinued due to fear of re-injury or not wanting to feel that same pain ever again, hence this can become a barrier for future training gains. Rehabilitation is a vital component for your body to return to its previous level of function in the shortest period of time and in the safest way possible. Therefore, it is imperative that you understand healing time frames. This meaning that your body needs to rest and it is crucial that you allow your body the sufficient time to rest as prescribed by your health care practitioner. However, it is important that don't let your injuries become a barrier to your health and fitness goals!

It is highly important that you understand the purpose of recovery and healing time frames given to you by your health care professionals for your specific situation. This is a critical period where your muscle tissues are being repaired and restored back to its original function and the speed in which an injury heals would depend on the type and severity of damage that has occurred. Therefore, listening and taking on board of the advice given to you is vital for your ability to recover and when given the all clear to start physical activity again, it is usually a graded approach to light activity that is fundamental for you to return back to training, play and/or work. There are a number of elements that can occur when training is stopped due to your barriers.

The most notable consequence of injury on strength, power and endurance is muscle atrophy, where the muscle will start to decrease in size and strength and unfortunately these changes often occur within 48 hours, as the saying goes "if you don't use it, you lose it". In saying that, as an effect of this, there is also a decrease in joint stability seen in our muscles of the knee (VMO), glutes, shoulder (rotator cuff muscles) and the core. This decrease in strength can then have a flow-on effect on your ability to produce power in the muscles, which can then also affect your muscular endurance, critical in carry out activities of daily living such as maintaining your posture and breathing muscles which as previously stated, these muscles are quick to atrophy in the first 48 hours. Therefore, when commencing your rehabilitation program when safe to do so, strengthening the affected muscles is very important. Additionally, restoration and maintenance of range of motion is usually one of the first goals of any rehab program as prescribed by your doctor and should be performed pre, mid and post-injury as this promotes smooth coordination and movement patterns, maximises alignment of joints and improves posture and your ability to absorb shock. In a more functional standpoint by maintaining your range of motion it can assist your ability to perform basic activities like getting up from a chair and/or reaching for something in the cupboard. Even these basic activities could be very difficult to perform if you are lacking flexibility in conjunction with strength, power and endurance as previously mentioned before.

Not only do we target the muscular component but we also have to think about and not neglect your cardiorespiratory fitness. After an injury, both upper limb and lower limb, our endurance can reduce rapidly and therefore it is important to incorporate this component into your recovery program to maintain your cardiovascular fitness, looking at targeting both anaerobic and aerobic energy systems whether it is through long durations or short durations on any machine and exercise. Additionally, it is extremely important that once an injury occurs that you are looking at some substitute activities to replace what you cannot do. For example, if you hurt your ankle (lower limb) you can incorporate exercises that target your arms or shoulders or vice versa if you hurt your arm (upper limb) think about utilising the bike, treadmill or do some light exercises on the leg press. Activities such as swimming is also very useful in providing low impact with high resistance to the intended muscles.

It is obvious the many effects that can occur due to injury, it is up to you to overcome these barriers with the help of your medical and health practitioners and the wide array of activities that you can do that are prescribed to you so that you do not go backwards only to move forward for you to achieve your health and fitness goals.

 

Image credit: Motortion Films, Athlete male with bandaged leg riding stationary bike in morning, recovery - Image, Shutterstock, viewed 10 June 2019, < https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/athlete-male-bandaged-leg-riding-stationary-1232777095>

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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