Exercising Through Pain: Six Tips for Exercising with an Injury
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Suffering an injury or experiencing pain can put a damper on your regular fitness routine. Although some injuries or pain may necessitate taking a short break from exercise, in most cases, simply modifying your regular exercise routine will allow you to continue building your body while providing time for your body to heal.
In many cases, exercise can actually help reduce pain. “Exercise increases circulation, which helps the body complete the healing process,” says Lisa Hanley, Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer. “It also increases joint lubrication, and restores mobility, strength and function so you can take part in life again.”
Exercise works to restore and re-educate the body’s protective reflexes, which provide you with balance, agility and coordination—all factors that help prevent injury. When your body is trained to recognize and respond to a stumble, it becomes just that, a stumble—rather than a fall, which can cause serious injury and even long-term disability.
If you have suffered an injury or are experiencing significant pain, it is important that you seek medical attention prior to resuming exercise. “You should exercise only after your doctor and or physical therapist has cleared you for a gentle, safe, progressive exercise regimen,” says Hanley.
Once you do resume exercise, it is smart to work with a professional fitness trainer who has been trained in the modification of exercises to suit an individual’s needs.
Hanley gives these six tips for exercising when you’re in pain.
Exercise smart. In general, low impact activities that use a decreased range of motion are best for people who are in pain or recovering from an injury. Movements should be flowing and controlled rather than powerful or jerky.
Low-impact workouts are ideal. For example, people who suffer from back pain may find that walking with small strides on a cushioned track does not exacerbate pain as running might. Others may find that a water exercise class, elliptical, or recumbent bike causes less pain some forms of exercise.
Some exercises are riskier than others, especially when you are injured, choose safe exercises that don’t put your body in compromising positions. An example would be switching from shoulder dips to a close-grip chest press machine where the shoulder is less vulnerable and the range of motion is easier to control.
Don’t ignore your pain. Pain is a message from your body that something is wrong. Don’t ignore it! Instead, seek to understand what is happening so you can change course. Ask for help from your doctor, physical therapist, or a professional fitness trainer when needed.
People often assume that their pain must be age related and therefore inevitable. In many cases, simply changing choice of exercise or modifying how they perform a particular exercise can help alleviate pain, rather than spending years exacerbating that pain.
Know the difference between muscle burn and pain. You can build your body through exercise, or you can break it down. Know the difference. Muscle burn is progressive during an exercise set. It correlates with your fatigue and starts to decrease as soon as you stop that exercise. In contrast, injuries can cause sharp pain or soreness that lasts from several days to weeks. It’s important to differentiate between these.
Keep your body balanced. It is easy to over-train movement patterns you feel you are good at and neglect those in which you feel less successful. Doing so can result in serious muscle imbalances. A common example is over-training the pectoral and latissimus muscles while neglecting the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. The result is poor posture, which can lead to more problems and more pain. Restoring and maintaining good muscle balance around a joint provides support and protection for that joint. A good exercise program first addresses the body’s needs and then reinforces its strengths.
Don’t stop exercising; just modify. If you want to exercise but are experiencing pain, it is possible to work around an injury, provide rest to the area in pain, while still maintaining overall strength and fitness in the rest of your body. For example, if you are experiencing shoulder pain, you may still be able to do some core, lower body and cardio exercises. The hormones released during exercise help promote strength, even in the areas of the body that are currently resting.
Likewise, if you experience pain in a certain place during a repetition, you may be able to do a partial repetition in a pain free range to provide strength maintenance without exacerbating the problem. You can also use lighter resistance, but higher repetitions (20+); slower speed; and an intensity level of two or three on a scale of one to 10.
Take time to warm up and stretch. If you are injured, a warm up of 10 minutes or more is ideal. A longer warm up can include cardio, active stretching, core exercises, and movement preps. Movement preps are a low resistance “dry run” before your actual exercise. They allow you to practice the motion before adding any load.
Stretching is also critical, and yet it is the first thing many of us cut when we are in a pinch for time. Muscles work a lot like rubber bands. A loss of elasticity decreases power and range of motion, and sets up the muscle, joint, and tendons for trauma during your workouts. Using devices like the foam roller, the stick, and other massage methods can help restore and maintain elasticity so that your muscles function in a more youthful way.
Working with a personal fitness trainer can help ensure you are using the proper mechanics, which are critical. Every repetition is a choice you make to create better movement patterns or reinforce faulty ones, so choose wisely!
It is possible to do something during your workout that you may have to live with forever. Balance your short-term aesthetic and competitive goals with your long-term desire to be happy and able to participate in life for the duration—hopefully pain free, physically competent and independent. There is nothing like your original body parts. Don’t wear them out early!
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Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.