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Pain Without Gain | Muscle & Body Magazine

Ignoring an injury is asking for trouble.

One of the main concepts I reinforce with the athletes I train is that working out should not be painful. Athletes are so use to pushing their bodies that they sometimes take the phrase “no pain, no gain” way too literally. Remember, pain is the body trying to signal that something is wrong. Pain is also very different from normal fatigue and tiredness that can be felt through workout exertion on your muscles.

It is extremely important for an athlete to learn the difference. While the temporary discomfort stemming from the rigors of lifting weights or through cardio workouts is normal, chronic or acute pain may be an alert to a significant injury.

Rice is Nice

An injury can absolutely wreck your fitness level and training schedules, especially if you are an athlete gearing up for a competition. However, failing to properly address the injury can have a catastrophic effect. My advice is to always take pain seriously and to learn what is a natural response from your body. In addition, seek professional medical advice for any injury that lingers too long or becomes debilitating, as that can be a warning sign for something more serious.

Injuries are unfortunately part of training. Whether you’re an elite athlete or just someone who wants to stay fit, injuries will happen. Learning how to adjust training and provide treatment may be the key to retaining fitness levels without regressing through inactivity. In fact, a recent article in the Harvard Health Publications discussed this very topic and did an excellent job of providing an overall look at dealing with an injury. They broke it down to three separate timeframes that can sometimes overlap: the immediate postinjury phase, recovery period and functional phase.

The author does a good job of explaining that the most critical time after an injury is the first 24–48 hours after it occurred. The common acronym many trainers and medical experts will use after an injury is RICE. It stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. They recommend a few key treatment tips, such as to immediately rest the affected injured area; begin ice treatment for 15–20 minutes as soon as swelling occurs; wrap the injured area with compression bandages; and to raise the injured area above your heart to “allow gravity to drain fluid from the injury.” This is all good, sound advice.

The article did a tremendous job in detailing how to respond to an injury, but the main reason I decided to cite it was the advice on the next steps. A main point they try to get across is that although you need to rest the injured part, the rest of your body needs to keep moving. Don’t let injury time be wasted time, as that is primarily where an athlete can suffer regression in fitness levels and abilities.

Train Around the Pain

The bottom line is, continue to work your uninjured areas. What happens, the article states, is that when not in use, “the proteins in surrounding muscles start to break down within 24 hours.” The result is that you can lose important muscle mass and strength rather quickly. So continue to stretch after your muscles are already warmed up, perform exercises that may have low impact but can continue building muscle, or continue aerobic exercises if it doesn’t cause pain in the injured area.

As healing progresses, begin working the injured area slowly, concentrating on increasing the repetitions with lower weight. Use your pain, soreness or swelling levels experienced during or immediately after workouts as a barometer for increasing workout difficulty until you return to normal function. Ice treatments postworkout may be a good idea for the first few weeks after a return to normal function. When in doubt at any point throughout your injury and recovery period, consult with your physician, physical therapist or certified athletic trainer for guidance.

One last word of advice when dealing with injuries is to be conscious of the potential need to adjust your nutritional plan, especially if extended time will be missed. Often, caloric intake, types of foods eaten or supplement regimens are based upon the assumption of a minimum activity level. Don’t let yourself gain unwanted weight that will need to come off later or will compromise your fitness level after the injury has healed. Talk to a registered dietitian if you need advice on scaling back your nutritional plan until you return to normal activity levels.

via Pain Without Gain | Muscle & Body Magazine.