According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, there were over 30,000,000 nonfatal injuries in 2014. With a national population exceeding 314 million people, that’s nearly 1 in 10 of us getting injured. So how do you get back to training safely after an injury? Here are a few tips:
Where to begin
Think of yourself after an injury as not being at 100 percent. Your body needs time to recuperate from this event. This should occur in the context of working with a medical professional who has performed a thorough investigation before making a diagnosis and treatment plan. This last part might include guidelines for exercise, stretching, and other types of normal daily movements and working with a physical therapist, a massage therapist, or a chiropractor. All of these professionals want to help you make a complete recovery whether or not your injury calls for surgical intervention.
The human body should find a balance between complete inactivity and too much exertion. By staying in bed all day, you can begin to lose muscle mass and bone calcium and your body has a higher risk of developing blood clots. If you were very physically active before the injury, it’s also possible to feel disappointed with a decreased activity level, which arises from the fact that you aren’t used to being inactive. Many patients also count on exercise programs for socialization and stress relief.
Focus on regaining muscle strength and mobility
An injury can affect any part of your body, but it’s best to ensure that you exercise carefully and avoid further injuries. Aim to strengthen your muscles as well as increase your flexibility by engaging in an eccentric [muscle-lengthening] and concentric [muscle-shortening] routine.
Go concentric: muscle shortening
This kind of exercise requires the muscles to work at a load less than they can totally generate. A good example is when you lift your arm during a bicep curl. The muscles of your arm will contract to the point that your wrist descends towards your shoulder. Over time, you can strengthen muscle groups so that the maximum load they can handle is greater. That’s strength training at its best.
Get eccentric: muscle lengthening
This kind of exercise is the opposite of muscle shortening and involves muscles getting longer until they reach the point that the external force on them is greater than they can produce. For example when you’re walking, your quadriceps are lengthening just after your heel strikes the ground and while your knee flexes. Likewise, if you put an object down gently, your arm flexors lengthen so that the fall of the object is under control.
Trying to pursue a workout that is too aggressive can lead to further injury. Not challenging yourself enough can leave you feeling frustrated with a sedentary lifestyle, which could eventually urge you to over-exert yourself. Moderation is always recommended to give your muscles time to return to their prior state of strength. Your injury site must get enough time to completely heal. With the help of a physical therapist, you’re on your way to safely getting your body to return to its optimal function.