Personal trainer and fitness blogger, Karim Arafa on coping with injury
Time Out Bahrain staff
I’m sure that injuries are not part of anyone’s fitness and body re-composition goals. Having said that, recent studies show more and more people are getting injured – 35 per cent more! Whether that’s because more people are incorporating training into their lifestyles or it’s simply a matter of more people getting injured, there’s no debate that injuries suck and everyone gets them at some point, so it’s better to be prepared for when your turn comes.
Correctly attending to an injury will help you get back to training sooner than you think - and that’s what everyone wants. Unfortunately, training through your injury, or not treating it correctly, can worsen the injury if not bring you more injuries and that means even more time off. Fortunately this article is all about getting you back to training as soon as SAFELY possible.
So you’re at the gym and suddenly, there’s a sharp pain. Since common sense is not so common these days, here’s what you should do:
Stop training As boring as that sounds, that’s exactly what you need to do. When you’re training, your muscles are warmed up and you will never get a true feel of how bad an injury really is until you’ve cooled down. So even though it might not be serious, the best thing is to hit the showers and evaluate the injured area.
While some injuries only require some TLC and a few days off before you’re back, some will need more time and at times a visit to the doctor. Here are a few screening tips to identify the seriousness of the injury: Bruising/swelling: If you experience any bruising, red blemishes or swelling to the injured area, the first thing to do is rest it off for a day. Once these have slightly subsided, start icing* for the next 48 hours for 15 minute intervals, two hours apart. If the bruising and swelling is still there, book the soonest appointment with your ortho as it is most probably a sprain if not worse, a tear.
Contrary to common belief, you should refrain from icing or taking any anti-inflammatory medication during the first 24 hours as it is actually counterproductive to your efforts.
Location of the injury Now we have passed the first screen, which is dismissing any bruising, red blemishes or swelling. While a pain in your bicep or chest could be from an overworked or sprained muscle, it’s really not that serious and that should take care of it if you follow the above steps and give it the rest it needs. However, some spots are known to have serious implications and seldom come with a “rest it off” protocol. If any of your injuries are in the following spots, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as you can to dismiss any serious injury: • Spine • Knees • Shoulders • Elbows
Now if you’ve been cleared by the doctor for any serious injury and you just need to rest, he’ll probably prescribe some anti inflammatory and the usual RICE. Let’s take a quick look at these steps:
Rest Yes I’m going to repeat this because it’s critical to get you back to training. Now, this does not necessarily mean complete bed rest. I’ve seen so many people get injured and use this as an excuse to fall off the wagon to only return after losing 6kg of muscle and replacing it with 10kg of fat. If you have an injury in your lower body, let’s say your knee for example, your upper body is still functional.You need to avoid any standing exercises that would place a load on your knee, but you can use machines (or seated variations of standing exercises) to train your chest, back, arms and shoulders. The opposite applies to if you were injured in your shoulders for example.
Ice Icing the injured area helps but not in the way that many doctors claim. There is no empirical evidence that ice treats and/or heals an injury. Initially thought to slow down and reduce the metabolism of the injured tissues, there is very minimal evidence of this. In my opinion, ice helps by alleviating (numbing) the pain. When you do so, you don’t think about your injury as much as you would if it hurt at every move. This psychological factor is what truly helps the body recover. The more fixated you are on your injury, the more your body is aware and does everything to protect it and not heal it. That’s my two cents worth!
Compress Compression helps to control the swelling if any, however I don’t recommend it for all injuries as that would be counterproductive as it would restrict blood flow which is essential in treating the injured area.
Elevate Elevating the injury is not what many of you are thinking right now. Elevation is meant in the sense to take the weight off the injury and is mainly intended for lower limb injuries. To conclude, I would like you to perform the following before starting to train after an injury:
Evaluate for pain If you think you have healed and are ready to get back to training, ask yourself are you really pain free? Perform everyday activities involving your injured area. Pick something up, carry bags if you had an arm injury. Bend down in a squat position, power walk for a knee or ankle injury and so on. If you are pain free then you may CAUTIOUSLY resume training with a gradual approach. Don’t forget that you’ve been off for a while and you need to reintroduce your injured area to training, gradually. There you have it folks. Train smart! Read more on injuries from Karim at thefitnessgrail.wordpress.com