For some people, being injured provides the perfect excuse to swap their running shoes for slippers, but for keen exercisers an injury can be an incredibly frustrating experience.
Many fitness fanatics return to training too soon, which can delay rehabilitation and cause further problems. While the road to recovery can be long, there are steps you can take to promote healing and get yourself back on track in the shortest possible time. Injuries fall into two categories: acute injuries that occur suddenly (such as a sprain) and chronic ones that develop gradually, often due to overuse.
In the case of a chronic injury, it can be difficult to pinpoint when and how it started. This type of injury often begins as a niggle that we ignore, hoping it will go away. Unfortunately, continuing to exercise without identifying the cause or treating the injury will only exacerbate it — I had an upper back injury I ignored for several months until the pain radiated to my ribs and it became agonisingly painful to breathe.
If you find yourself with a chronic injury, you must rest to give the affected tissue time to recover. Ice will help to reduce swelling, as will anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. Gentle stretching and mobilisation exercises will promote healing, and massage can help reduce scar tissue.
Exercising with incorrect technique, on an uneven surface or without a proper warm-up are among the most common causes of acute injuries.What you do immediately afterwards will determine how well and how quickly you recover. In the most serious cases, such as breaks and dislocations, you must, of course, seek immediate medical help, but pulled muscles or sprained joints can usually be self-treated successfully using the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
The amount of time needed to recover will depend on the severity of the injury. If it’s serious or you have a long-term chronic issue, it’s best to seek professional help. My preference is for my miracle-working physio, but other options include chiropractors and osteopaths.
During the early stages of recovery, caution is key. In some cases you may not be able to do any exercise for a few days while in others it may be safe to embark on modified regime.
If you are unable to perform your usual sport or activity, cross training is a good way to maintain fitness levels without causing further damage. If you can’t weight bear, for example, try swimming or cycling.
It is also important to include rehab work in your routine. Mobilisation, gentle stretching and strengthening will play a key role in your recovery. If you visit a sports injury professional they will probably prescribe some exercises for rehabilitation.
To reduce the risk of future injuries, always warm up and cool down properly and ensure you incorporate rest and recovery sessions into your training program. It’s also important to address muscle imbalance — one of the most common and often overlooked causes of pain or injury. Factors such as poor posture, habitual movement patterns and overuse can result in some muscles becoming short and tight while the opposing ones become long and loose. Over time this creates poor joint alignment and faulty biomechanics. A fitness professional will be able to assess your posture and movement patterns and create a corrective program.
Nutrition is another key to injury prevention. There are myriad supplements claiming miraculous properties but few are scientifically proven and some can be downright dangerous. It’s far better to eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein for muscle recovery and growth, as well as calcium for bone strength. Dehydrated joints and tissues are more vulnerable so stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Originally posted theaustralian.com.au
11th February, 2013