Training After Injury to Maximize Function and Minimize Pain
February is here, and it’s around this time of year that we all start feeling guilty for abandoning our resolutions. Fourteen percent of people who join a gym in January will drop out by February. We may have abandoned those resolutions because of unrealistic expectations, time constraints or even injury. Overuse injuries such as tendonitis, sprains, strains and joint inflammation are commonly seen in physical therapy clinics in February due to over zealous resolution-makers. Repetitive activities aggravate joints and soft tissue in people who have not previously been active, or who change their activity level too quickly. This can be compounded by the mantra, “no pain, no gain!”. People tend to think that they have to “work through” discomfort, when in reality, this is the body trying to tell us when enough is enough!
When beginning a new training program, it is important to have an assessment by a trained professional of where your muscle imbalances are that may cause any shift in your biomechanics with whatever you are doing repetitively. Remember that practice does NOT make perfect…it’s PERFECT practice that makes perfect! For example, if you repetitively hit a golf ball with an improper swing, your body will learn that improper swing, and the more golf balls that you hit, the harder it will be to retrain your body to have a proper swing. The sooner that you train your body in the correct mechanics of a golf swing, the better golfer you will be, as well as having less potential for injury.
Overuse injury can occur even with the best of body mechanics, depending on how much time is spent in practice. Overuse injuries are very common in high level athletes because of the extreme amount of training. It is even more important to have a program in place when you are active for large amounts of time. An exercise program designed to counter those repetitive forces on the body will keep you in your sport longer and with less pain. This includes training on how you can activate your internal stabilizer muscles so that your external mobilizer muscles can be at their maximum strength.
For your body to function optimally, we must have stability before mobility. Because our stabilizer muscles are closer in to our joints in proximity, they are the first muscles that shut down with injury or pain. Our mobilizer muscles then have to take over the job of stability AND continue to mobilize us. Since this isn’t their job, this sets up a recipe for pain and injury. It is not merely enough to continue what you’ve been doing, as this just perpetuates the problem.
If you’ve given up on your resolutions already, just start over again! Keep trying something new until you find what gives you a positive movement experience. You may just find something that you love to do enough that you would