Should I exercise through my injuries?

“The definition of insanity is to continually do the same thing over and over expecting a different result” – Albert Einstein

A Massage Therapist Perspective

Hi All.  I’m a big fan of exercising.  Exercising includes everything from yoga to weight-lifting to running marathons.  However, I’m not a big fan of continuing to exercise through an injury that won’t go away.  Nor do I believe in the philosophy that beating on a long standing injury will make it better.  Why do I believe these things?

Acute vs Chronic Injuries

There are two terms everyone should know because they will make a difference in how you approach treating your injuries.  Those terms are acute and chronic.  Let’s start with acute.  Simply put an acute injury is a new injury that is less than 90 days old (<90).  A chronic injury is a long standing injury or condition that is 90 days or more in age (>90).  Both have very different approaches to how you might treat them.  I’m going to give you my recommendation.  Please note, I’m not a doctor, physical therapist or sports medicine practitioner.  I am an extremely active licensed massage therapist with 15 years of experience working on every type of injury possible.  Doctors send their patients to me when surgery and medication aren’t an option.  Now that we have that out of the way.

How to Deal with Acute Injuries

If you have an acute injury and it is muscle, fascia related continue working out.  You may have to slow down, lessen the time, do less reps but continue going through the full motion.  Here is why.  You want to keep the integrity of your muscle tissue and range of motion in the muscle & at the joint.  After the healing process is complete you want to regain your original range of motion and hopefully even better.  Exercising through an injury assures you will get that.

See when we stop exercising during our injuries our bodies form scar tissue in the injured fascia (muscle, tendon, ligaments, fascia).  You want to prevent as much of that from happening as possible.  Look at your body and find a scar from an incision, a cut, a fall, a burn.  Notice how that scar changed the tissues around it.  It becomes crumpled, tight, pulling on surrounding surfaces.  Possibly, you can feel it pulling areas further from it’s actual location when you touch it or move it.

In some cases you may have had the scar for many years and it simply won’t go away.  The same effect happens internally.  And, once scar tissue starts binding fascia together it then shortens the muscles ability to extend through it’s full range of motion.  Lowering performance, comfort levels at rest & in motion, and very difficult to reverse the effects of after the fact.  The key is to start moving after your injury so your tissues can stay mobile.

How to Deal with Chronic Injuries

If you have a long standing injury meaning more than 90 days then stop your current activity. For example, if you injured yourself while running.  I would suggest taking a break from running and do a different activity for approximately 2-4 weeks to give your body time to heal.  Pick up weight training for 30 days or yoga but do something other than running.  The key takeaway is to let your body heal from doing the movement that exacerbates the injury.  After 30 days, take a short jog.  See how you feel.  Then slowly increase distance, time and speed as you return to running.  Start with a mile increment a week.  Nurse your injury back to health.

Note:  Acute injuries become chronic injuries if not dealt with right away.  If you notice continuing to work through your recovery of a new injury isn’t going well after 90 days from the original onset of the injury then it’s time to move into chronic injury recovery phase.

And, Don’t Forget To Do These Things Too

Just like anything we have to test what works best for our bodies.  The idea is to be proactive and patient in your recovery.  The body takes time to heal itself.  Keep in mind that your body has many things to do and an injury is just one more thing.  It puts it on it’s checklist of priorities.

Other things you can do to assist your body to a quicker recovery are to be mindful of what you’re eating, practice the R.I.C.E principle and of course get some form of massage/bodywork done.

One last thing, always let your doctor know about your injuries just to make sure it’s nothing more than a common injury like a sprain, strain or some sort of -itis.

Hi. I’m Felicia. I’ve made a 20+ year career of massage and bodywork. And, I still love it. I also enjoy writing, playing music, photography, cooking, baking and painting. All of which I’m not very good at. I’m also a daily bike commuter.

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