In all my classes, one of the the most frequently asked questions is what to do after an injury. Today I am addressing this question with 3 basic steps:
Step 1: RICE: When an injury has first occurred, the protocol we are all taught to use is R.I.C.E. This stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Step 2: Restore Mobility: When swelling subsides and most of the tissue has healed, we start to move that area again in order to retrain the damaged tissue.
Step 3: Restore strength, stability and flexibility to the area and scar tissue.
On step 1: Often a person might over do it. They hurt their muscle and want to fix it right away. They wonder if they stretch it, would it get better? If you had a torn rubber band and you stretch it, would that heal the tear? The best thing to do when you feel you might have torn a muscle is absolutely nothing. Movement can aggravate an injury and we must give the body a chance to heal. This is why REST is the first step. We ICE the area for no longer than twenty minutes on and off to reduce swelling. Sometimes we COMPRESS the area by providing a brace or wrap to prevent the area from moving and aggravating the injury. ELEVATE the area if you can to restrict blood flow and swelling. For example, if you sprained an ankle, put your feet up. The first stage can last from one day to many months depending on the severity of the injury.
On step 2: The next step is to restore mobility. Understand that the body is made to heal. However we need to help it along. When a muscle is injured, often the neurons that send messages to the brain become damaged. We need to move that area to restore our reflexes. Also, movement brings blood flow and energy back to the area which will assist in healing. In general, if the movement hurts, don’t do it. You may still be damaged and you do not want to aggravate an injury.
On step 3: During the final step, take some time out of our week to restore strength, mobility, stability and flexibility to the area. If we do not do this, our damaged tissues may have healed but they will stay weak. Because they are weak, they will be more likely to get re-injured. Also, babying one area of the body may cause muscle imbalances as we over compensate by making our healthy muscles and bones work harder. This too, can lead to more injuries. A good physical therapist should work with you and provide you with proper exercises to bring strength and mobility back to your injured area. This may include massage (to soften inflexible scar tissue), weights (to bring strength back to weakened areas), balance poses (to restore stability and balance and to help protect joints), static stretches (to restore length to muscles and tendons), and movements (to restore mobility).
If injuries do not get better, the cause could be one of four reasons:
Reason 1: The injury ‘caused major damage such as bulging discs that pinch on nerves, a muscle that tore completely off or a dislocation that needs to be corrected. This may require the attention of a medical specialist or surgery. It is always smart to get testing done such as x-rays or an MRI right away so that you know exactly what is wrong. If you know what is wrong, you and your doctor will have a more solid idea of what to do about it.
Reason 2: Not giving the injury a chance to fully recover or coming back too strong. Some injuries take longer to heal than others. Returning to a fitness routine too quickly will not give the body a chance to heal. Overuse injuries are caused by never giving your body enough rest.
Reason 3: Improper alignment. Doing an exercise improperly, such as squatting and lunging while letting the knees bend over the toes, can exasperate a condition. Talk to an expert and make sure you are doing all of your movements correctly.
Reason 4: Failure to effectively warm up and cool down. warm ups lubricate the joints and send blood to the area you will be exercising. Some warm ups are necessary to recruit more muscle fibers. Cool downs gradually take blood out of the area to avoid cramping, swelling and stress to the muscles and heart. Starting and ending an intense work out too suddenly can be dangerous.
By Rhea Morales
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