If you’ve been injured in the past you’ve probably been told by your doctor, friends, therapists and everyone else that you need to rest, stop exercising and let your body recover and heal.
Although injuries, including repetitive strain type injuries, do require you to modify your movement and possibly the type of exercise your are doing, I don’t believe it gives you a free ticket to avoid the gym and cash in on extended couch time.
There is no doubt in my mind from personal experience, experience with patients and our current understanding in the research that we NEED movement in order to be healthy and optimize function in our body. I’m a broken record on most days encouraging more movement to most people. Regardless of how much you think you move in a day, you probably need to move more.
How does this fit into injury and recovery? Well your body is actually designed to recover under stress. In bone we call this Wolff’s Law, where our bones actually get stronger and develop where there is more load or pressure placed through them. In soft tissues like muscles, ligaments and tendon’s we call this Davis’ Law where tissue will heal in the manner in which they are mechanically stressed. This is why your trainer or therapist is often watching and commenting on your form because you want your tissue to become stronger in the most useful ways to meet the demands of your life or sport.
It is because of these laws that now even after a hip replacement surgery the surgeon will often have a patient up and walking the same day. It’s a way to start to add stress to the tissue in a way that the person is going to need to use it in the future - i.e. to walk.
Let’s look at ways that you should be incorporating exercise and movement to recover over simply resting:
Listen to your Pain. This is why I don’t use pain killers - ever. The reason you have pain is to guide and protect you from further damaging injured tissue. Turning off the pain is like turning off the smoke detector when there is a fire in the apartment. With movement - when we are in control of that movement for the whole time - we are going to be positively adding stress into tissue in order for it to heal and repair. Modify the movement if you need to and slow things down.
Modify your Movement. It’s best for this recommendation to consult chiropractor or doctor on movements that are safe for your specific injury. For example, if you're a runner and dealing with a hip or knee injury you may want to try swimming or biking as an alternative. If you do resistance or functional training in a gym there are a lot of ways to still get a good work out, hit those targeted areas and aid in your bodies recovery with modified movements.
Identify the Core Problem or Root Cause. I can not stress this enough! You need to have a proper idea of what is going on and what is causing the pain/injury in the first place. Too often we only focus on the symptoms and what we are experience rather than properly identifying the underlying condition. Consult your chiropractor to help you!
Refocus your Expectations. Don’t worry as much about performing or exercising in the way you used to. Your body can and will get back to that state it just needs time. Focus your energy on healing and recovery. Mimic your normal routines and regular activities but be mindful of what you are able to accomplish. It can be really frustrating and annoying to not be able to exercise at the same capacity you had previously been able to. Give it time. Our bodies are incredible at healing.
Eat Good Food. Don’t worry about gaining weight or eating crappy food because you feel sorry for yourself. Food is just fuel and nutrients that your body needs to repair itself. Get the premium gas and load up on the right vitamins and minerals so your body can use those building blocks to repair the damaged tissue. Would you rather build a house with quality materials or budget, low-grade materials? What you put into your body makes a difference.
Never forget, that your bodies are incredible, adaptive, responsive and extraordinary. That being said they are a perfect representation of what we put into them - emotionally, physically and chemically. Stop fighting your body and start working with your body to create the health and life that you want to live.
Dr. Alfredo is a health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.