Important steps for Maximizing Recovery
Recovery after an injury is no fun: injuries are a big setback and can limit your progress in a major way. Handling your recovery properly can improve this process, get you back to health sooner, and contribute to strengthening the muscles and joints that have sustained an injury. If you implement these steps, you will improve your overall recovery and health.
Severity: What Should You Do?
The severity of an injury is going to determine both the timeframe for recovery and the approach that you need to take. While some injuries are able to be self-treated, you should be sure to talk to a medical professional if you are unable to weight-bear, or if the injury is more severe than a pulled/strained muscle. Being humble and knowing when to defer to the experience of a doctor is going to maximize your recovery.
Pulling a muscle is one of the most common injuries in any sport, and occurs when you perform exercise without proper stretching, when the muscles are too weak for the exercise, or when you rapidly change pace or direction. Pulled muscles are inflamed, tight, and sore – they are uncomfortable to use.
RICE is the standard approach to pulled muscle treatment and other small injuries, and stands for:
Rest: take time to avoid using the muscle, especially through rapid movements or heavy loading, and let it rest. This will allow immediate recovery: attempting to train or rehabilitate the muscle too early can exaggerate the injury.
Ice: Apply a cold pack or bag of ice to the area. This will reduce inflammation and stop the injury from becoming worse. Spend 10-15 minutes icing followed by 15 minutes without ice.
Compress: Mild compression should be applied to the area, either with a custom-built support, compression garment, or other items. Don’t apply too much pressure, as this could make it worse, but ensure that there is gentle pressure around the injury. Compression Socks are great for leg recovery.
Elevate: Raise the injury above heart-level where possible to reduce bloodflow to the wound during the period immediately after injury.
Long-Term: Rehabilitating and Strengthening
Once the immediate period of injury has passed, rehabilitation and strengthening should be the main goal. Rehabilitation should focus on reducing any excessive tightness around the muscle, using a variety of methods:
- Gentle stretching and warming up
- Soft tissue massage
- Joint mobilizations
- Gentle movement (such as walking, for the lower body)
- Gentle strength exercises
Once you are able to apply load once more, focus on developing strength and stability. Slow-eccentric strengthening exercises are a great way to do this: reducing the speed of movement is a great way to improve muscle strength and quality, especially after injury.
Exercises should also challenge balance, control, and re-stabilizing during movement. This means including movement in 3-dimensions, as well as movement on unstable surfaces – like a balance board.
Focus on challenging yourself during recovery from injury, but also on practicing movement quality and putting your muscles and joint in positions that are correct. There’s a good chance that biomechanics contributed to the injury, and poor positioning will contribute to further injury. Fix this during your recovery, and it might just prevent injury in the future!
Best of luck with your recovery process!