Returning From Injury
A fairly high percentage of the patients I see in my office are in for injuries that they sustained while doing sports or other physical activities that they enjoy doing on a fairly regular basis.
One of the best things about my job is that I get to help these people get back to the activities that they enjoy as quickly as possible and help them identify and avoid pitfalls which may lead to prolonged or recurring injury.
I get asked a lot about how / when a person should return to full activity following an injury, so I thought I would outline my general recommendations for you in case you need some guidance.
So here they are:
1) Use Pain as a Guide – Until you are 100% healed you’re going to have to listen to the signals that your body is giving you. Avoid activities or movements which cause sharp and recognizable pain. If any activity causes pain which builds with repeated repetition, stop what you are doing right then and avoid that activity for a little while. If any activity / movement causes pain which lingers for more than a couple of minutes then avoid it for a bit as well
2) Rest Relatively – There is mounting evidence that suggests that complete rest (especially in the case of low back pain) can actually lead to prolonged injury or worsening of the condition. Making sure to be as mobile as possible while following the first recommendation about using pain as a guide is a good way to go.
3) Take a Graded Approach – When returning to your sport or activity, I always recommend focusing first on frequency. Work up the amount of times you participate over the span of a few weeks to a month. For example, if you regularly do an activity or sport 4 times a week, start with once or twice a week at a lower intensity (50-60% of your perceived maximum effort) then add one day every week or so until you are back to your normal frequency.
After you have gotten back to your regular schedule you can then start to increase the intensity of your performances by about 10% every week or so until you are back to doing your thing the same as you used to!
4) Get Some Expert Advice – A lot of sports and activities require specialized skills or properly fitted equipment. Technique or fitting problems can most certainly contribute to prolonged and recurring injury, and while I may be able to help identify some of the larger issues for you, I would highly recommend seeing someone who specializes in technique and equipment analysis. This is particularly beneficial in the case of golfing, swimming, running, and biking.
5) Eat and Drink Clean – Getting enough water and having a solid diet will go a long way towards optimizing your body’s ability to regenerate itself after injury.
6) Get Some Sleep – In order for your body to recuperate from injury, you need sleep! Make sure that you’re etching out time to get 8 hours a night.
That’s it for my general guidelines! I hope you find them helpful.