02 Aug How to move your way to recovery after injury
Fast-track your return to sport or other activity, by being proactive with your injury recovery.
When a soft tissue structure becomes injured, this usually results in omission from activity until such time that the injured muscle, tendon or ligament has recovered. However, this does not mean that you need to be totally inactive.
It is still common for GPs to refer patients to complete rest with the use of paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, with the assistance of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, you can fast-track your return to sport or other activity, by being proactive with your recovery. The following tips will help ensure that you are taking all the right steps towards returning to your favourite activities.
1. Gradually load the injury site
This will depend on the site and nature of the injury, however it is important that, throughout the rehabilitation period, the strength of the injured structure is gradually increased throughout the healing process. Completely neglecting the injured muscle, tendon or ligament will result in excessive weakening of the area, which will not only increase the recovery time, but also increase your risk of future injury. This is a delicate process, and must be planned under the careful guidance of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.
2. Continue your strength training around your injury
It is important to note that an injury to one part of your body (e.g. knee) does not mean that all strength training needs to cease. Where possible, continue your resistance training program around your injury. This will ensure that you are remaining strong for whatever sport or activity you plan to get back to once you have successfully rehabilitated from injury. I often tell athletes that I work with that injury is a time to work on areas of fitness that they may not have time for during full training, and to see this recovery period as an opportunity, not an inconvenience. Furthermore, pain-free movement patterning exercises to the injured area will help the body’s neuromuscular system retain information on different movements, which will make your return to resistance training a seamless transition. Before commencing a gym program whilst injured, it is important to consult with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, who will provide you with the safest and most effective plan for your condition.
3. Maintain your aerobic fitness
It is important that you maintain a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness during your rehabilitation. If you are an athlete, a reduction in aerobic fitness will result in a delayed return to your best form while you regain your competition fitness. If you don’t play sport, a poor level of cardiorespiratory fitness as a result of inactivity will increase your risk of cardiac disease, among other chronic conditions. Maintaining your aerobic fitness can be achieved through many avenues which offload the injured area. For example, if you have injured your knee, you may be able to attend boxercise classes or swim, or if you have damaged your shoulder, walking or cycling may be an option for you. There are a multitude of options available for maintaining your aerobic fitness, and meeting with your Accredited Exercise Physiologist will provide you with the appropriate options.
Things to remember
- Rehabilitation involves gradual loading of the injury site to build strength and tolerance to activity
- Injury is an opportunity to work on areas of your fitness that you may not get the chance to during full training
- Maintain your general strength training program to the best of your ability during your rehabilitation
- Cross-train to maintain a high aerobic fitness base