No one likes being injured. Injuries often involve some degree of pain or discomfort, difficulty participating in sports, recreation or even day-to-day activities. Furthermore, it can be a challenge to know what you should or should not be doing in order to optimize your recovery. When you sustain an injury, it can be especially difficult to know if you should rest, continue training through pain, or do a combination of both. Most people want to do whatever will help them recover as quickly as possible, but determining what this is can be tricky.
The Importance of Resting Injured Tissues
It is important to recognize that when you have an injury, some tissues in your body have been damaged. Whether it’s a sprain, a broken bone, a muscle strain, or tendinopathy, some tissues have been stressed beyond their capacity, and they need time to heal. If you continue to participate in activities that overload these injured tissues, you will continue to delay the healing process.
The Benefits of Exercising Throughout Recovery:
While it is crucial to rest injured tissues in order to allow healing to occur, that does not mean you need to be on bed rest, or absolute rest. In many cases it is just one part of the body that is injured. In these cases, the rest of your body is still capable of withstanding the stresses of exercise. In fact, if you avoid exercise altogether while you are recovering from an injury, you could be doing the rest of your body a great disservice. Below I have highlighted some of the many benefits of exercise are still applicable when you are injured:
- Exercise boosts energy through improved strength and cardiovascular endurance.
- Exercise can assist in weight management.
- When you exercise, chemicals are released in your brain which help to improve mood and promote relaxation.
- Exercise can help prevent and manage chronic health conditions and diseases.
- Exercise promotes improved sleep.
- Exercise can help manage stress.
Exercise has so many health benefits – both physical and mental – and if done correctly it can even help to promote a faster recovery from injury.
Cross-Training & Other Creative Strategies to Stay Active without Disrupting Tissue Healing
Depending on the area that is injured, it can take some creativity to think of types of exercise that can be done safely. In general, cross-training is a great way to reduce repetitive stress on injured tissues. Cross-training refers to using different modes of exercise (such as running, swimming, and weight training) to create more balance in the body than just sticking with one mode of exercise (such as running as your only form of exercise). This is important both when recovering from injury, or when trying to prevent injury in the first place.
Below, I have outlined a few types of exercise that can be very helpful to incorporate into your routine while recovering from injury. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, and that these guidelines are very general and not applicable to everyone:
- Yoga: Yoga can be a great way to incorporate flexibility, balance, and breathing work into an active recovery program. It is low-impact, and it is also great because it involves a lot of different types of movements and postures, rather than repetitive movements which stress the same structures over and over again.
- Swimming: This is another great low-impact form of exercise. While this may not be the best choice for people recovering from shoulder injuries, it can be great for lower extremity injuries. Depending on the extent of your injury, you have the choice of using a pull buoy (a floating contraption which you can hold between your legs) to further minimize the stress from kicking in the water.
- Deep water running: For all those runners who have developed lower extremity injuries, deep water running is a great way to continue to train the muscles and movement patterns used in running, without subjecting your body to the impact involved in running on land. Deep water running involves using a flotation device around the waist, and with a fairly upright body position, going through the movement of running in the water.
- Weight training: Weight training is an efficient way to build strength and muscle endurance. One of the benefits of weight training while injured, is that it is possible to be very specific in terms of which muscles or joints you are targeting, so that you are able to train while placing minimal stress on healing structures.
- Stationary bike or cycling: This is another great low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise which can be used while recovering from upper extremity injuries. Cycling can even be used from some lower extremity injuries which are unable to tolerate the impact of running but can still withstand some degree of load.
- Pilates: Pilates is a great way to strengthen the core, and there are a lot of adaptations that can be done around injuries in order to get a great workout without compromising healing. Especially one-on-one Pilates is great so that the instructor can really individualize the exercises to your specific needs and limitations. Finding an instructor with experience working with injuries is key. Here at Rebalance Sports Medicine, we offer Rehab Pilates which is designed with injury recovery and prevention in mind. It is one-on-one with an experienced Pilates instructor who works closely with your physiotherapist to create a plan tailored to your specific needs in order to optimize recovery.
Physiotherapists have a lot of education and training in exercise prescription for people with injuries. If you are injured and are having trouble finding ways to stay active without impeding your recovery, I would highly recommend booking an assessment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists. We can help you come up with strategies to stay active, and also help guide you through an individualized rehab program to get you feeling better as quickly as possible.
Written By: Reanna Montopoli, FCAMPT Physiotherapist