Sports injuries happen. When you push yourself to achieve new levels of fitness, you are bound to sustain a sports injury of some kind sooner or later. The most important thing you can do regarding injuries is to prevent them in the first place by training safely, warming up, increasing your intensity gradually, and consuming enough water and the right nutrients. However, when you are injured, the other half of the battle is knowing how to handle your injury so that you recover as quickly as possible and minimize your chances of a recurrence in the future. If you have an injury but want to continue training, keep these dos and don’ts in mind.
Do know what your injury is
Don’t assume that you know exactly what type of injury you have. For example, the pain from a fracture may not be as intense as you’d expect it to be; however, continuing to stress a fractured bone can easily lead to more complicated problems, instead of gradual healing. Some injuries require complete rest to heal properly, so do see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and to get advice on how to proceed regarding your activity levels.
Don’t create new injuries
One common problem is for people who are facing a long recovery period to overwork other parts of their bodies, resulting in a new sports injury. For example, if your right shoulder is injured and you spend months working only your left shoulder and arm, you could be setting yourself up for imbalances and future problems. Not only your arms but also your back, hips, and legs could be affected by such a scenario. Ask for professional advice from your doctor or coach to help you choose appropriate exercises.
Do stop if it hurts
Too many people insist on “working through the pain” – and cause themselves significantly more distress by doing so. Most of us work out for fun or to protect our overall health, not for a living. We should have different goals and priorities than professional athletes and even competitive amateur athletes. Your goal in the gym should be to get stronger and fitter for the long haul. Skipping recovery and training through pain will not help you achieve this goal. Train consistently and at an appropriate pace for you – and take the time to recover when you need it.
Don’t stretch a pulled or torn muscle
Stretching a torn or pulled muscle will only exacerbate the issue – and the pain. For mild strains and pulls, you can try the R.I.C.E. method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) until your symptoms subside. Conversely, waiting too long to begin exercising or stretching can also cause complications. Scar tissue begins to develop in the muscle fibers, which is less flexible than your original muscle fibers. When it’s safe to stretch, go ahead and do so to avoid unnecessary inflexibility. Ask your doctor for guidance on when stretching or working an injured muscle is okay.