Injured and Can’t Train – Now What?
Being down-and-out with an injury isn’t just painful – it can be mentally frustrating too. For injuries that are isolated to one part of your body, the first step is the easiest of all possible exercises: simply move. Keeping active can aid recovery and allow you to maintain your fitness. It also releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good medicine. The trick is finding the right exercises that don’t exacerbate your injury.
When a person is suffering from persistent pain, guarding the injury is an expected yet potentially harmful response. Injured tissues heal, but muscles learn to readily develop habits of guarding that outlast the injury. Clearly, if guarded movements are programmed, and persist even in the absence of pain, then faulty movement patterns will be reinforced over time. Not only are different parts of the brain activated when pain becomes chronic, but there can also be changes in the brain areas devoted to detecting the stimulation of body parts and performing functions begin overlapping. This process is why some body parts may become difficult to use or other areas become sensitive compared to the injured area.
The first step in your recovery is to find a physiotherapist that is an expert in the assessment and detection of maladapted movement patterns that can increase you risk of injury. A standard orthopedic assessment involves the identification of painful movements and tissues, however, a functional assessment brings forth faulty movement patterns and asymmetries that are not painful, however, are part of a larger system of links that work together called a kinetic chain. The site of pain and its source are often assumed to be identical, thereby leading many practitioners astray. In clinical rehabilitation, searching for the source of the biomechanical overload is of utmost importance.
Imbalances within movement patterns or asymmetry between limbs increase the risk of injury due to inefficient activation or timing of the muscles. In my opinion, it is not enough to just treat the pain, and therefore your physiotherapy treatment is not over when pain subsides. Identification and prescription of exercises that restore proper movement patterns and timing are imperative to a thorough rehabilitation program. Normalizing specific dysfunctions of any movement pattern will facilitate improved performance.
The brain thinks in terms of movement not individual muscles. Functional training integrates many muscle groups by placing the body in functional positions and includes the performance of multipoint exercises. Under the guidance of a skilled practitioner, you can and should immediately begin training. You should do it to cover that last, crucial step from “recovered” to “better than ever.” You should do it to test your tissues, to reveal remaining vulnerability, to demonstrate to yourself that you really are better. When you are ready for it, functional strength training is a powerful way of demanding the highest possible function from your tissues, the most potent way of “using it” instead of “losing it.”