December 20 , 2011
The foundation of our training philosophy at Engineered Bodies is based upon Functional Movement Systems (FMS), and the systematic removal of physical dysfunction that is present in basic human movement patterns. Eliminating these limitations in mobility can improve athletic potential and performance, but more importantly, it reduces the likelihood of injury. However, despite our best efforts, physical injury is an inherent risk when it comes to participating in any exercise regime or sport, and the possibility of being sidelined is always going to be present. Take me for example, as I recently injured myself while working on snatch technique. I completed my set and was routinely lowering the barbell to the ground when I felt and heard a pop in my left wrist. Immediately, I was unable to pick anything up with my left hand without experiencing a sharp, stabbing pain. Second degree wrist sprain. Ouch!
Some of the most well-known motivational quotes in fitness and sport include “no pain, no gain”, and, “pain is weakness leaving the body.” Although many athletes subscribe to this way of thinking and endure the pain that results from an injury, it is important to remember that pain is experienced for a reason. That is, it is your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong (duh!). The problem with exercising through pain is that pain changes movement. When pain is present during movement and an athlete – either consciously or subconsciously – moves in a way to avoid experiencing that pain, an unnatural movement pattern is formed. With enough repetition, these unnatural movements can create new physical imbalances, which increase potential for future injury.
The most important consideration when exercising while injured is to choose exercises that can be performed pain-free through a full range of motion (ROM), and avoid any movement that may cause pain and exacerbate the injury. This should not be confused with completely immobilizing an injured joint, because excessive immobilization can increase post-recovery joint stiffness, which limits mobility and again increases potential for injury in the future. Rather, it is advisable to gently move the joint through its pain-free ROM, stopping just before the range that produces the pain. This movement, though limited, ensures that nutrient-filled synovial fluid continues to be delivered to the joint, thereby aiding the recovery process.
Be safe and gently experiment with different movements, weeding out the ones that produce pain. It goes without saying that you can safely exercise joints that are unaffected by the injury. In my case, I have determined that I can do any upper-body exercise that keeps my wrist in a neutral position and doesn’t place a load across my sprained ligament, such as knuckle pushups and certain variations of the row, and I can continue to do lower-body exercises that do not require me to hold onto a weight, such as the back squat. Stick to these tips, and you’ll be able to continue exercising, minimize detraining (loss of training adaptations such as strength, power, endurance, flexibility, and muscle mass), speed recovery, and reduce the risk of further injury and before you know it, you’ll be 100%!
Disclaimer: If you experience an injury, ALWAYS consult a clinician to assess the severity of the injury and receive medical clearance to resume exercise.