If I Have an Injury, Should I Still Continue to Train?
Many of us have been at this crossroads at one time or another. Why? Because it’s a messy life, and accidents happen often and without warning. One time, I strained my calf stepping off a curb wrong. My dad threw out his back throwing away a piece of dental floss. Long time Force client Brian Ellison potentially broke his wrist in a fall last week.
But you know what? You could spot him at the gym three days in a row this week, pulling bands, carrying dumbbells with his healthy arm, and actively working on mobility. Why? Despite Brian’s ailments – which include not only his wrist, but a back that is in month 2 of recovery from surgery to repair a bulging disk – he wants to continue his journey of improvement, and he sees the daily difference movement makes in his life beyond the gym.
We all know the basic equation, that stress + rest = improvements in fitness, and most of us have heard that if the “rest” component is taken away, we will plateau or see declines in our fitness or performance. However, when we find ourselves with a weird pain in our shoulder or we sprain an ankle, many of us are quick to throw in the towel, put our running shoes up for the season, cancel our gym membership, or adopt bed rest as the necessary form of treatment. We settle for all rest and no stress (and by “stress,” I mean the physiological demands placed on our bodies through exercise – the stimuli that lead to the desired results), and as a result, we let go of improvements to which we have dedicated much of our energy over time.
As humans, we have a tendency to set standards and get frustrated when we can’t attain them perfectly. If we can’t do one or two of the exercises we set out to do because something hurts, we ditch the workout all together. While beneficial in some scenarios, the “all or nothing” mantra can have detrimental implications for a commitment to self-betterment. There are always ways to regress or modify exercises in a way that doesn’t cause pain or takes load off the hurting area completely – and the big picture goal, after all, is just to move.
Dr. True at True Health Chiropractic & Rehab goes so far as to say, “Rest is actually the worst thing you can do,” and explains that although most doctors nowadays have completely done away with prescribing bed rest, sadly, many people still see it as the best route to healing. He adds, “Movement is your medicine.”
Of course, in extreme circumstances, like a severe car accident or a concussion, complete rest may be the best and only means of healing, at least for awhile. But for most of us who experience injuries ranging from waking up with random pains in the morning to tendinitis to recovering from a surgery, the biggest step we can take toward healing is to get up and get moving – carefully, but purposefully. Dr. True explains that every aspect of tissue healing is solely dependent on movement – from cell signaling to blood flow, and we are doing ourselves a huge disfavor when we stay sitting on the couch.
Not only that, but exercising builds and maintains confidence, positively impacts daily mood, and, as Brian adds, provides camaraderie. If exercising is already a big part of your weekly routine, and you suddenly tweak your shoulder, your routine is already compromised – why throw it off more by staying away from something that positively impacts your life?
As Force coaches, every day we have the privilege to work with clients who come in with issues ranging from an elbow that was slept on wrongly to a sprained wrist, and everything in between. Speaking from personal experience, I love the challenge presented by figuring out what these people can still do to make progress toward their goals. I firmly believe that exercise is for everyone, in every condition, and I believe in the power of movement as medicine. Client Alice Ridge, who always walks through the doors of Force with a smile on her face, recently damaged the cartilage in her knee when she stepped wrong. She may be in a brace, but you can frequently catch her repping out her pull-ups on the TRX, getting stronger every day.
In between sets of his pull-ups, Dr. True explains, “Not coming to the gym because you’re injured is a big mistake. It’s imperative [that you continue to train]. Not training your body in its fundamental movement patterns leaves you more vulnerable to injury.”
So next time life comes at you fast and leaves you with a tweaked muscle, a swollen knee, or even a more serious injury, don’t make your couch your temporary home. Be assured that there are still many things you CAN, and that in most cases, the quicker you get moving, the quicker you will heal.