Note- This article is referring to non-serious injuries, like muscle strains, low-grade back, shoulder, and knee pain. This should not be mistaken for medical advice as I do not wear a white coat.
Being 51, a former weekend warrior and seriously lifting weights for over 20 years, I’ve had my fair share of injuries. Plus, being a personal trainer for 12 years, I’ve had clients come to me injured or due to life circumstances have hurt themselves.
Here is a sample of the amount of times I’ve hurt myself. Cue the world’s smallest violin.
Knee and ankle tendonitis
Strained triceps tendon
Tennis and golfer’s elbow
Right A/C joint inflammation
3 herniated disks and several back spasms
Injuries never knock on the door. They come in unannounced when you least expect it to ruin your day, your week, or even your year. In short, injuries suck and can stop you in your tracks.
Please keep in mind you are not broken because minor injuries are usually a temporary setback.
There are things you can do besides taking pain pills to help the healing process and here is the first thing you do before exercising around any injury.
Do Some Research
Breaking news. When it comes to your injury your local GP or pain management specialist mightn’t have your best interests at heart. Shocking, I know. Their usual advice (based on personal experience) consists of
A. Stop doing this and rest
B. Show me the money
C. I have a pill or injection for that
This is not terrible advice because sometimes the pain is too much to handle, and you want it to go away, even if it’s only temporary. However, sometimes this doesn’t get to the root of your problem.
This is where Google is your best friend.
Doing research increases your chances of finding a medical professional who has encountered your type of injury/pain before which means your time and money will less likely be wasted and the treatment they prescribe is more likely to work.
Another route is using the direct messaging function on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn because you can reach out and ask questions about your current predicament to those who are in the know. When you’re asking, make sure your questions are as concise as possible to avoid possible confusion and time wasted.
While it’s almost impossible to diagnose injuries over the internet, they can offer suggestions on what to do and not to do because they may have met someone with a similar injury.
Whether your injury is obvious, diagnosed, or non-diagnosed there are a few things you can do to keep your sanity, help the healing process and exercise around your injury as to NOT make it worse but (hopefully) better.
Let’s dive in.
Exercise On The Floor
Exercising on the floor lessens the threat to your nervous system because you have the stability of the floor. Less threats to your nervous system means less pain and the ability to work around your injury.
Being on the floor is helpful for lower back pain due to less stress being on your spine. And it’s helpful to shorten the range of motion of certain exercises if full ROM is not possible.
Here are some exercise examples.
Following on from exercising on the floor, deep breathing on the floor may not ‘heal’ your injury but will help reduce your stress levels.
Taking a slow deep breath and exhaling slowly has an immediate calming effect, helping cut your stress level and your pain. The deep belly breathing will oxygenate your blood which in turn releases endorphins, while also decreasing the release of stress hormones.
Which means you’re less likely to blow gasket and punch a hole in the wall.
Here are a couple of examples.
Reducing The Range Of Motion
The floor press above is a way of reducing your ROM to work around and not through injury, pain, and discomfort.
Pain when it comes to injuries is tricky, but it boils down to the brain sensing a threat, whether it’s real or perceived. By reducing the range of motion to a pain-free one, you cut the threat and still strengthen your muscles without pain.
When you reduce the threat, hopefully over time you’ll strengthen the muscles to where the pain is less. Granted, it’s tricky, and it does vary from person to person. But like with all exercises, let pain be your guide. These exercises work best if you have a shoulder, knee, or back non serious injury that you can move a certain amount without pain.
Here are a couple of examples.
Train One Side At A Time
When one side of your body is injured, unilateral strength training on the non-injured side leads to muscle specific sparing effect on the injured limb, a process called cross education. (1) (2)
You will heal faster, keep strength and muscle while being injured, even when one side is immobilized. Plus, keeping active will keep you in a better frame of mind too. These exercises are great when you cannot move one side due to pain, sprain, strain, or the limb is out of commission,
Don’t worry about one side getting bigger than the other. It’s unlikely to happen during the healing process. Here are some exercise examples.
1-Arm DB Bench Press
1-Arm Landmine Press
1-Arm Cable Rows
There’s no doubt injuries suck and it’s easy to write yourself off or coast through rehab. But, if you want to recover faster and retain strength, muscles, and sanity these four methods will help. Don’t take injuries lying down.
1. Justin W Andrushko et al. Unilateral strength training leads to muscle-specific sparing effects during opposite homologous limb immobilization. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Apr 1;124(4):866-876. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00971.2017. Epub 2017 Dec 14.
2. Ashlee M Hendy 1, Michael Spittle, Dawson J Kidgell. Cross education and immobilisation: mechanisms and implications for injury rehabilitation. J Sci Med Sport. 2012 Mar;15(2):94-101. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.07.007. Epub 2011 Sep 15.
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