I must begin this post with a disclaimer (of sorts):
If you are an exercise-obsessed person addicted to working out, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU! I do not support working through injuries, only AROUND injuries. So go relax and have a cheeseburger :).
Many of us do our best to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, **it happens. You twist an ankle wrestling with your kids, or strain your back while moving boxes, or you go through childbirth (darn babies :)). With injuries, there is a certain protocol when they are fresh & new that is taught in First Aid class…R.I.C.E., which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Once you have done that, come talk to me.
I deal with many clients who have chronic pain from injuries that happened decades ago. A sprained ankle in high school that developed into a knee problem that developed into an opposing hip impingement that led to a joint replacement that led to a shoulder problem and now they have debilitating headaches. Really! So my goal is to educate people about how to get through an injury/surgery with the greatest success possible.
The best thing you can do after an acute injury is move as normal as possible and stay active. This may sound funny to you, but if you don’t pay close attention, the habits your body develops from a limp from tweaking your knee/hip/ankle can stick with you. Also, the mental hesitation of not staying active for fear of re-injury will create a wicked pain and inactivity cycle. The same is true after medical procedures. It is SO important to follow through on your physical therapy program beyond what is covered by insurance! Just because your insurance runs out doesn’t mean your are healed.
A great example of staying fit through and injury is a client I had back when I worked at the DAC. He was a healthy gentleman who had torn his achilles while playing basketball. He came to me wanting a few upper body exercises he could do while he was on crutches for 3 weeks and his foot was “booted” for 6-8 weeks. It started out with a few simple chest and back exercises, but it turned into the beginning of my corrective exercise career. Through bands, creative cables, and counter balances, this man was able to work nearly every muscle BUT the calf that was torn! He hardly missed a beat because we remembered that everything else still worked.
Don’t let yourself turn into a couch potato just because you have Blackberry Thumb, Tennis Elbow or the like. Get creative! And if you can’t think of anything, ask a trainer for some ideas. It is important to let the injured area heal, but don’t forget about the rest of the body.
Another example is my personal one. My second child was delivered by C-section because the little bugger was upside down and one foot to the sky. Nearly all resources, including my own OBGYN, state that a women should wait 6 weeks to exercise after having a c-section (4 if regular birth). Now my M.O. with guidelines has always been to “Question with Boldness”, so after a week or so of rest after my surgery my brain starts wondering, “why 6 weeks? my arms aren’t broken…my feet aren’t broken”. So I began to ease into simple exercises like a seated bicep curl, bench dips and calf raises. Then I moved to balancing on one leg, push ups into the wall, seated shoulder press (yes, all light weights). Eventually, it was a smooth transition back to my former workouts.
So if you are reading this with your feet up and ice on your (insert body part here), go through a mental checklist of your body. Which parts are still healthy? What movements can I do without aggravating my injury? Finding exercises you can perform while your injury heals will not only keep your body strong, but also keep your mind strong. Depression can sneak up on you if you let the injury or pain get the better of you.