Your Training Doesn’t Need to Stop Just Because You’re Injured
By Dr. Molly Casey
Whether you are a weekend warrior, a regular athlete, or you only engage in exercise randomly, injuries happen. When you’re training for something or exercise is a regular part of your daily life, those injuries can feel overwhelming for different reasons.
Sometimes the overwhelm is mental because you simply love the exercise high but the injury -- if it hampers your routine -- can feel kind of dark. Sometimes the overwhelm is physical because it can interfere with your training regimen and perhaps threaten your participation in the event you’re training for. Either way, acute injuries need to be addressed as soon as possible. The sooner and more thorough you abide by these gentle, conservative guidelines, the better your chance of getting back to what you want in the way you want to.
Stop, Assess, Be Smart
When the injury occurs, stop the activity. This may sound obvious, but for many it is not -- especially if you are training for a specific event or are an avid fitness person. Often folks roll an ankle, tweak a shoulder, or feel something funky in the knee and simply try to keep going. They finish their workout and keep their eyes on the preset goals thinking more is better. Now, don’t get me wrong -- goals, clarity in what it takes to reach them, and perseverance through uncomfortable circumstances is required to succeed.
However, sustainable training through an injury requires training smart. So if an injury -- or possible injury -- occurs, stop. Take a moment. Assess whether the affected area just needs a moment of reacclimating, needs walking it off, or whether the pain and irritation persists and it would be wise to definitively stop the workout. Some of this is intuitive and sometimes it will be unclear. Always err on the side of caution. Your entire training and fitness program will not be fully dependent on finishing that one workout; if you can somehow justify that it is dependent on that singular workout, maybe the answer still is to stop. Training smart is not always easy because it can require stopping when your mind would rather keep going. Training smart does allow your body to sustain long-term what you’re asking your body to do.
Support the Healing Process
Healing is a process, it is not linear, which means a straight line from hurt and injured to not hurt and functioning in an ideal manner. There are things you can do to support the body through the healing process.
First things first. Get into your chiropractor and get adjusted. Chiropractic adjustments promote optimal nervous system communication between your brain and body. In order for healing to occur in the most thorough and efficient manner, the brain and body must be able to communicate to the highest degree. If it is an upper extremity injury, the chiropractor can adjust the cervical spine, which is where the nerves that innervate the upper extremity exit the spine. The lumbar spine is where nerves that innervate the lower extremity exit the spine. In addition, the chiropractor can look at the affected joint and manipulate any bones in the injured joint that may not be functioning ideally.
Second, think “controlled inflammation.” Inflammation is a process that cleans out injured debris and it is required for healing. Uncontrolled inflammation is what becomes a problem. So wiping out inflammation is not the goal. You can take supplements that naturally help decrease inflammation and not allow it to go unchecked. Some examples of this are curcumin, bromelain, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Third, ice the affected area and perform gentle ranges of motion after the icing session. Ice 20 minutes on the area with something thin (like a paper towel) over it to protect the skin, then keep it off for at least 40 minutes. Ice is a natural analgesic (pain reliever). Gentle ranges of motion after the analgesic can allow greater movement in small increments and promote efficiency in healing.
Finally, rest the injured area. Don’t freak out here although this is where so many people bail. Rest does not necessarily mean no activity. Rest from the activity that caused the injury and others that stress the joint. For instance, an ankle injury from running doesn’t mean you can’t ride a bike instead in order to get much of the same benefit with minimal stress on that joint. Changing training may require creative thinking or asking someone who may know more than you about the body and how it works. However, it’s often totally doable to swap out exercises and still maintain progress toward the goal.
Listen to your body. If you want to train long-term or you simply don’t want to always hurt, sustainability is necessary. Sustainability requires adaptability when things like injury pop up in the process. Go to your chiropractor and let them help you on the healing journey and make adaptations that will support this.
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