Injuries happen. There is not much you can do about that. But the steps you take AFTER an injury can have a dramatic impact on your ability to get back to 100%.
So, here is your 5-step plan for getting back on track after you get hurt:
1) See someone!
I have to put this in here because I can’t tell you how many times people hurt themselves and do not do ANYTHING about it.
They just let it go and assume that the body will heal itself.
While the body is amazing, if you do not know exactly what you did or what you need to do (or avoid) to let it heal, there is a very good chance that you are just going to keep hurting yourself.
2) Avoid daily damage
If it was not an impact injury (falling, getting hit, running into something), the injury was NOT the problem. It was what was happening before the injury occurred that was the problem.
Let’s take an example: low back pain.
If you have ever “thrown out” your back, you will know that just about any time this happens, you were NOT doing something especially hard. You bent over to tie your shoe and BAM! your back went out.
Why is that? Well, I can GUARANTEE that leading up to that injury, there was some other stressor that primed your back to fail. This could have been eating an especially inflammatory meal, sitting all day, overloading your schedule, over-exercising, etc.
The point is, the reason you hurt your back was not that you bent over, but because you were not taking care of yourself beforehand and the back was the symptom.
This goes for A LOT of pain and injury, so if you really want to avoid hurting yourself, see how you can remove daily stressors (poor diet, poor posture, repetitive motions, excessive life stressors).
3) Do your homework
If you get hurt, you will probably end up seeing a health care professional. Whether that be a physical therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, or personal trainer, in the end, NONE of these people will be able to help you if you do not do the homework they are asking of you.
You cannot fix an injury by seeing someone one time, two times, even three times a week! You can do a lot, but in the end, it is the 160+ hours outside of your time with them that will make the biggest difference.
4) Have a smart plan
When it comes to injury recovery, there are a few key things you need to think about for full recuperation.
First: tissue quality. If your tissue was injured, then there is probably some scarring. Scar tissue does not act the same as normal tissue, so you must do something to rest the tissue (massage, taping) to allow for full recovery.
Second: joint mobility. Once the tissue is working, you must rebuild full range of motion around the area. Let’s say you hurt your knee. This means that you need to regain full motion in your knee, hip, and ankle (at least).
Third: rebuild stability. Once you have full range of motion, you need to build stability in those joints. For the knee, it will be critical that you are able to balance well on that leg and that you can go through all of your body weight movements while controlling the knee (squat, lunge, step up, etc).
Fourth: add strength. Now that you have full range of motion AND control of that motion, it is time to add strength. Most people who self-diagnose their injuries go straight to this step.
The problem here is that if you add strength to a compromised muscle or joint, you are only going to learn to compensate. This will either lead to a re-injury or a NEW injury because of the compensation.
So, if you really want to recover, this must come AFTER the other steps.
5) Learn from your mistakes
There is nothing worse than recovering from an injury just to have it happen again. If you want to avoid this, you need to take an objective look at what caused the injury and what you could have done to avoid it.
There are very few injuries (if any) that you did not play SOME part in. A good example is if you were to slip and fall. Some people may see this as an unavoidable accident.
But I challenge you to take responsibility and ask, what could I have done differently?
Well, I can tell you this, if you exercised regularly, trained your balance and coordination, and were in great overall condition, there could have been a very different outcome.
Maybe you could have caught yourself. Or slid but did not slip. Or you could have adjusted mid-air to land in a way that did not injure you. Whatever it is, there is always SOMETHING you could have done. Instead of blaming the universe, this is a great opportunity to learn and improve!
So, if you DO find yourself injured, follow the steps above to ensure you get back to 100%. There is nothing worse than having a nagging injury that just stays with you for the next 3, 5, 10 years.
And if you are not sure what do to, ask us! We have an awesome referral network that we can recommend for you to get started with, plus we have become the go-to spot for post-rehab training.
If you ARE in physical therapy right now, but are not sure what you are going to do next, working with a personal trainer is going to be the best next move.
Physical therapy can only take you so far (insurance cuts off eventually L), but we can keep you going until you really are recovered…and build you up so you do not get injured again!