There are few things more frustrating in your fitness career than getting injured. One minute things are going great and the next, you’re sidelined and not too excited about what the future holds.
The good news is that if you are smart from that moment you are injured, you don’t have to be sidelined long. The biggest mistake too many people make is trying to keep working through their injury, thinking they can push through it. Do this and your injury is likely to only get worse, lengthening the recovery time and prolonging your journey back to your normal workout sessions.
To help you make a speedy recovery, let’s go through the right steps you should take to improve your chances of getting well sooner. Many people know the right recovery techniques to be using, but they don’t understand the proper order they need to be doing them in.
Here’s what you need to know.
So you’ve just been injured. Pain sets in and you immediately wince when you think of what this means to your progress.
Right now, the most important thing for you to do is rest. Don’t try and complete the rest of that workout. Just stop what you are doing and get out of the gym. You will only make matters worse by staying.
The sooner you rest, the sooner you recover. Remember that.
Next, you need to ice. In the first 48 hours after injury, icing is critical as this will help to stop the inflammation and slow down the bleeding that may be taking place.
Ice the effected area for 15 minutes at least 3-4 times per day for the next 2-3 days. Allow for at least an hour between icings and make sure that you aren’t applying ice directly to the skin or you may suffer from ice burn in that region.
While you ice, you may also want to add the treatments of compression as well as elevation as both are going to help with improving recovery and reducing the level of swelling.
Your number one goal at this point is to lower swelling and inflammation as this is what will then help prompt the healing process.
Massage And Heat
After the first few days of icing, resting, and elevating and/or applying compression, the next step is to begin massaging the area and applying heat. Note that you should only do this if the initial pain has subsided. If you are still in a lot of pain and could have actually torn your muscle, massaging can do more harm than good.
Likewise, if inflammation is still present, heat is not what you want – ice is your better bet.
So assess where you currently are at and then make a decision from there. Once the initial painful period is over and you’re starting to feel better, the massage can help to break up any scar tissue that may be present in the area, preventing you from making a full recovery and relax any tight, knotted up muscle fibers as well.
The heat on the other hand will help to increase circulation, bringing more nutrients and oxygen to the muscle tissues in hopes of accelerating the healing process. Just like with ice, you’ll want to apply heat for 15 minutes at a time, 3-5 times per day.
Once the massage and heat round is finished and your injured area is feeling quite a bit better, it’s now time to start stretching.
Note that you don’t want to push the stretching here like you would if you were attempting to increase flexibility. Doing so may cause more muscle damage and tears, making it harder to recover.
Instead, you are simply looking to improve your range of motion and get rid of any tightness that may be happening due to the injury that took place.
You want your full range of motion to return to normal before you begin any form of exercising again for the area, so do as much stretching as it takes to achieve that.
Make sure when you do stretch, you always do a brief warm-up first as this will get the blood flowing to the muscle tissues, helping them become more pliable. Never stretch cold as that’s a great way to simply end up back on the injured list.
Finally, the last stage of the game in injury recovery is strengthening the impacted area. Depending on how long you’ve had to take off, you may notice that you have lost a bit of strength in the impacted area.
Some injuries – quite serious muscle tears can take weeks to heal up properly, so this could be having quite an impact on what you can and can’t do, strength-wise.
Take is low. You may need to perform bodyweight-based exercises first before getting back into your normal weighted exercise routine. Or, you may choose to work with resistance bands at first as well. These tend to be great as you can easily adjust the level of resistance you’re working against, making it easier or harder as need be.
As you feel your strength level increasing, slowly add more resistance to the exercise. If at any point you feel pain, back off immediately and go back a step or two.
You don’t want to push the strengthening step too far too quickly or you could very easily injure yourself and end up right back at square one again.
Slow and steady wins this race. If you use this approach, you’ll get back up to full speed much faster than if you keep spinning your wheels, going around in circles and never fully recovering.
Injuries are frustrating – there’s no question about it. Try not to let your desire to get back in the game cloud your better judgment on what you really need to be doing. Use the time you have to off to read about new workout techniques that you can then employ when you do get back up to your normal fitness levels and can move full steam ahead.
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