Everybody’s heard the word “INJURY” at least once. But what does it actually mean? And how do you get back to working out after suffering an injury? Read the article below to find out!

An injury is characterized by structural changes within tissues that cause functional disorders e.g. in proper joint functioning. In other words, what happens is the damaged/ruptured tissue prevents the proper execution of movements. The most common injuries are: bruises and local hematomas, damaged ligaments, broken bones, sprains, and subluxation and dislocation of joints. Injuries may occur during an accident, but also when we overestimate our own abilities trying to achieve our goal at any price, ignoring the risk of getting hurt. They can also happen when we perform exercises without paying attention to maintaining a proper technique, or from simply overtraining.

Any injuries require a professional medical consultation to obtain a proper diagnosis. The healing process goes like this: in the first stage, there is an acute state of inflammation within the injured area (the so-called 1st stage of tissue healing). This phase lasts from 3 to 5 days. The 2nd stage is the stage of recovery, during which we observe scar formation. It is formed within about 5 days and gets hardened within 3 to 4 weeks. At this stage of tissue healing, we can start training again. However, we should not exceed our pain limit nor use heavy loads. In total, the 2nd stage lasts around 5 weeks. After this period, we enter the 3rd stage of tissue healing and can get back to working on our physical conditioning.[1]

Unfortunately, there are too many different types of injury, so I can’t prepare a set of exercises for all of them. That’s why I want to introduce you to a few rules that will help you get back in shape after suffering an injury:

  1. The PRICE principle (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Protect the injured area, rest – so don’t over-train the injured tissues, cooling (ice), compression, and elevation – these help reduce pain.
  2. Use muscle synergy: i.e. the phenomenon of the interoperability of movements where muscles involuntarily join active movements and help complete them. To put it in a simply: the brachial muscles, biceps, brachioradialis and so on are responsible for bending an elbow joint. If the area around this joint is injured, we can train all these muscles by performing exercises within the shoulder or wrist joint areas because the abovementioned muscles are also connected with and stimulated by these joints (motivated to move). It’s similar you’re your lower limbs. This method will allow you to train weakened muscles without worrying about putting too much weight directly onto them.[2]
  3. Focus on your body functionality. When you get injured, your body often tries to compensate in a pathological way; thus, your entire body is overstrained. For example, if your right leg is hurt, you limp and put more weight on the left leg. If you have broken ribs, you will tilt a little to take some weigh off them and reduce the pain, which may result in pathological contractures and muscle sprains. Therefore, before returning to training after an injury, you should check the mobility of your joints. If you feel any limitation, you should stretch the contracted muscles and strengthen the weakened ones, preferably by doing loaded exercises.

But how to get back to strength-building trainings? First of all, by starting with a much smaller load than the one we had been using before getting injured. It’s much safer to perform multiarticular exercises (e.g. deadlifts) with a very small load (up to 5 kg, or even without any weight) focusing on the technique and the movement path that your body should follow. Putting too much weight on the injured area can result in a recurrence of the injury – and trust me – recurrences are much worse and it takes more time for them to heal. Don’t forget that performing a movement by itself (e.g. bending an elbow joint) without any additional load actually makes muscles work and that loads serve only as a training supplement.

As I’ve written above, it is impossible to prepare sets of sample exercises for all injuries. However, below are some tips that will help you get back to form:

After a hand injury: perform a variety of exercises increasing your manual skills, such as: anterior and posterior bending of the wrist (try to touch your forearm with the palm or the back of your hand), stacking bricks, threading a needle, throwing and catching a tennis balls, lifting, carrying and putting stuff away (you can use dumbbells), squeezing a rubber ball.

After a shoulder injury: focus on the movability of the shoulder joint – raising your arm forward and sideways, and performing forwards and backwards circular motions.

After a hip joint injury: perform circular motions in the hip area, extending and bending the hip joint, and then you can try doing squats.

After a knee joint injury: perform a variety of exercises on unstable ground, for example, with a use of wobble cushions. Also, training with power bands wrapped above the knees provides good results because your knees are protected and stimulated to work involuntarily while performing abductions, squats or hip raises.

After an ankle injury: try exercises like flexing your foot (trying to reach your shin or your ankle with your toes), standing on your toes, performing circular motions with your ankle.

In addition, you can do a little extra after your trainings by going to a swimming pool – water helps reduce weight and this can make performing movements after an injury much easier. This will help you get back to training in no time!

[1] Robak A., Pencuł M. „Charakterystyka uszkodzeń kończyn dolnych u biegaczy oraz przebieg i wyniki rehabilitacji”, ZESZYTY NAUKOWE WSSP, TOM 17 – 2013, s. 26-27.
[2] Nowotny J. „Podstawy Fizjoterapii- Podstawy teoretyczne i wybrane aspekty praktyczne”, Wyd. Kasper, Kraków 2004, TOM I, s. 74