I recently was speaking with a student who just suffered an MCL tear and was frustrated with what they felt was a very slow healing progress. This student had followed their orthopedic surgeon’s instructions to a T and had abstained from any activity for two weeks but the injury still wasn’t feeling better. Returning to activities, such as running or swimming, only reaggravated the injury leaving my super active student sitting on the couch, hoping this injury would just go away.
And I know my student is not alone.
How many times have we felt a tweak or twinge and decided to just “rest for a few days” until it went away?
Well here’s the thing about the human body and injuries – it’s both as complex as you’d imagine and very simple at the same time.
First of all, doing nothing is not going to help your neuromuscular system (muscles and the nervous system that communicate with them) deal with an injury. It’s similar to if you had a virus on your computer, so you turned it off and put it on a bookshelf for two weeks. You have done nothing to address the issue other than avoiding it completely.
And yes, tissues can heal on their own without any intervention, but rest does nothing to help your brain navigate around or through the pain and injured area.
Anytime you have an injury and feel pain, your brain immediately goes to work limiting communication with the area to prevent re-injury. This is great for the moment, but two weeks later, when your quadriceps have forgotten how to stabilize and support your knee because your brain said TURN OFF, it is not nearly as helpful.
Beyond a catastrophic or freak accident, most soft tissue injuries are the end result of bad postural and movement habits. Sure, you threw out your back picking up the dog food, but it probably was the result of years of poor posture, breathing mechanics and weak spinal and core stabilizers. It wasn’t just the dog food bags fault. Your back going out was the literal straw that broke the camel’s back.
While you are on “rest” and the tissues are healing, work on the soft tissues in the surrounding area with massage or gentle stretching (if advised). If the injury is to a shoulder, for example, chances are your neck and upper back probably have some tension from bracing post-injury or posture related pre-injury issues that need to be dealt with.
Think about the tissues in the area that could use a little TLC and start there. Even though you’re not working right where the pain is (which you should stay away from as it heals anyway) you’ll still reap the benefits by addressing dysfunction in the perimeter.
The last thing to consider post-injury is retraining your body to move better to support the injured area and clean up any messy movement patterns that may have originally contributed to the issue. So many of us don’t move enough throughout our day to begin with, so there is always work to be done in improving the strength and endurance of the stabilizers of the major joints.
Work on hip stability. Work on core and spine stability. Work on shoulder stability. Yes, flexibility is also important, but your body also needs to be able to support itself first, and as you build your stability, you will probably find your flexibility increases too.
Getting yourself moving (and breathing) better post-injury will help to ensure that you do not reinjure the area again.
When was the last time you had an injury? What did you do for it? Were you told just to rest?
If you want guidance as you navigate movement post-injury, My Self-Care Startup Guide leads you through 15-days of potent exercises for the major joints (shoulders, hips, spine/low back) that will improve strength, flexibility and your body awareness.
- Ongoing weekly group classes in Glendale and Encino
- September 11: Structurally Sound 6-week Series (Glendale, CA) 4 spots left!
- September 15: Roll + Relax (Glendale, CA)
- September 30: Posture Rehab (Glendale CA)
- October 13-15: Yoga Tune Up Shoulders Immersion (San Juan Capistrano, CA)
- October 20-22: Yoga Tune Up Hips Immersion (Poulsbo, WA)