If you’ve been injured and are currently recovering from a joint or muscle injury, then no doubt you will have been told to rest up and will be spending your time with your leg/arm in the air or in a bandage not doing all that much (or at least you should be).
While this will help your recovery though in some ways, it is also something of a doubled-edged sword and can end up having a number of unexpected side effects. For one it can drive you out of your mind and can be very upsetting to be ‘benched’ when you’d rather be out there exercising or playing sports, and for another the lack of movement can cause you to lose muscle strength and balance and even to gain weight which will both further exacerbate your issue.
The ideal situation then is that you actually keep exercising but without letting it negatively affect you. Can it be done?
The truth is that when you’re injured rather than ill there is in fact no reason for you not to carry on exercising as long as you do it correctly. The doctor may have warned you not to, but this is simply a piece of general advice to prevent you from hurting yourself by doing something foolish.
Really the advice should be to exercise in a way that avoids placing pressure or impact on the affected area – and then to gradually reintroduce that area as rehabilitation as you start to improve (you see why it’s easier for them to just say ‘don’t’).
You can do this in a number of ways:
Exercise Other Areas: One way you can keep up this fitness without worrying about hurting yourself is to exercise only the other parts of your body. For instance then, if you’ve sprained your ankle, then there is nothing to stop you from sitting on the couch and curling some weights. Likewise if you’ve hurt your arm, then there’s nothing to say you can’t do some leg extensions. If fitness are performance are interests of yours then there’s no reason you can’t use this as a way to build strength in your areas that need extra work.
Exercise Differently: Another option is to try and exercise in a different way that won’t require you to strain your injured area. A good example of this is to use an electrical muscle stimulator (like an ab belt) which can help you increase your muscle mass without even needing to pick up a weight! Another option is to use ‘dynamic self-resistance‘, which essentially means pressing against your own body to try and build muscle.
No Weight Or Impact:
As you are able to start using your affected area again you can attempt to do so in a gentle manner that won’t put weight on it, and that won’t jolt it or cause an impact. For example if you have a bad back or a bad knee, then you can try cycling on a recumbent stationary bike. This is a bike that has you relaxing backwards into the seat and therefore doesn’t require you to place weight on your legs or back. Another option is to try swimming, which will enable you to push against resistance, to burn lots of calories, and to generally exert yourself but again without causing an impact or even forcing you to bear any weight. Swimming is a great form of rehabilitation alongside physical therapy and can help you to get back on your feet more quickly.
Support: Another useful piece of advice when making your way back into the gym is to use supports for your joints and muscles that will help to keep you stable and avoid twists and awkward bends. A knee support on a recumbent bike for instance can help eliminate discomfort and prevent fresh accidents. It’s a good idea to wear these supports long after you feel better in fact until your muscles have recovered too – otherwise you will be more likely to injure yourself due to fresh muscle imbalances.
So it is possible to keep exercising after an injury, just make sure you are careful and sensible and always consult with your therapist first.
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Today’s featured writer, Annie Thickie, works at Cheshire Fitness Zone, a company that provides speech therapy in CT. Her hobbies include cross-stitching and she loves to play golf in her spare time.