A 4-Step Injury Recovery Plan
When exercise among Americans seems to be at an all-time low, those who take the time to workout have reason to feel like they are doing their duty as community members. When an otherwise healthy and productive community member damages themselves while exercising, they typically feel like giving up. We understand how easy it is to feel sad and angry when you're unable to work out as much as you want, especially when you love running, swimming, or walking. But don't fall into the "Why me?" trap!
Take care of what your doctor recommends - even if it makes you angry that this little rush of wind from the barre damaged a tendon which will have you in tears on the bench for weeks! If you follow these steps closely, we know that soon enough, you'll be back in tip-top shape again - and no one will be able to tell that just last week, you were sobbing on the mat because ballet class made your foot swell!
Sports injuries are a common occurrence in the world of athletics. The true way to treat an injury when it first occurs is by following the acronym "RICE," which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest does not mean a nap - it means that you must stop doing whatever led to the injury as soon as possible. As soon as possible, apply a cold sack wrapped in a thin towel for 20 minutes; continue icing the injured area for 20-minute periods over two days. At the same time, you want to put some gentle pressure on the area (that's the compression part), perhaps using a wraparound elastic bandage from your local drugstore. If necessary, you can also speak to your doctor/pharmacist about what kind of medication or pills are available that might help prevent pain and inflammation.
It may sound like many steps to take in terms of treatment, but if you take it one step at a time and remind yourself that you're already beginning your recovery, you'll see that there is nothing to worry about. One convenience a person who does regular exercise can have on hand is the common ice pack which attaches to your elbow or knee with Velcro and can help speed up the process. And best of all - this convenience is available virtually anywhere!
Get out the heat pack.
Once you notice the swelling has gone down, it is time to apply moist heat. To do this, you can use a microwavable heating pad that comes with a sponge-like insert. However, one can alternatively use a wet washcloth for this as well. By increasing circulation to the area, you have reached a point in the healing process where the body will repair itself faster.
Try gentle stretching.
You now have to be careful when testing out your range of motion in the injured area. Ask your doctor, a physical therapist, or a professional fitness trainer that you trust to recommend simple stretches and moves for you, and do them slowly. Never go to the point of pain. Apply moist heat if the area feels stiff before you try anything.
You've probably been cautioned to take it easy and let an injury heal before putting too much strain on it. Nowadays, however, you're advised to return to normal activities once the pain has diminished. One study found that people who spent a week or more resting after an ankle sprain had more pain and a higher re-injury rate than those who were up and moving sooner. So keep on doing gentle movements that feel comfortable.
You might be tempted to start running straight away or to spend all your free time pounding on physical equipment. But, when treating tendonitis, research shows that the best treatment strategy involves movement with as little pain as possible and a gradual increase in activity over time. So rather than doing more than you can handle, try exercising just a little bit more each day. If you're hesitant, try doing it for five minutes and then gradually expand from there. Then remind yourself that healing is a process! Just like the discomfort of contractures, sometimes you have just to let the injury heal and give it time for your body's tissues to remodel themselves completely.
Adjust your workout.
As you ease back into being physically active, modify your workouts to avoid re-injury. This may mean reducing the length of your sessions or your previous level of intensity, or it may call for switching to an activity that won't stress the vulnerable area. If it's your knee affecting you, straight up running or sprinting might not be an option, so try cycling instead if it feels right – be careful if your knees are primarily affected; cycling can still put a strain on joints!
In addition, do some specific strengthening exercises for the muscles that support the area you injured. It is where you're going to want to start by building up the rest of your body's strength. If this is your knee, you're going to want to primarily focus on strengthening your thigh muscles (inner, outer, and back) of both legs; balanced strength here can guard against future harm.
Have you been doing your physical therapy exercises? Because if not, then I suggest you start immediately: there's no time like the present! Starting with a shorter, less intense workout than the ones you used to do before is a good place to start - work your way up gradually over time. The best part about it is that staying physically active after an injury does more than help you recover: it's also a great way of preventing further injuries from happening in the first place!
You need to realize that your body can heal itself. When you're hurt, try not to stress too much over the issue and allow your body's natural healing processes to do their work. After an injury, it may not be easy to maintain an active lifestyle. Still, in time it helps to renew a person's physical capabilities and appreciation of what being healthy means.