Injuries happen. It’s often the reason why we are introduced to one another in my profession. Maybe you worked out 5 days a week and you are itching to get back after recovering from sciatica. Or, maybe you were encouraged to start finding movement by me or another doctor.
The question is when can you start working out after an injury?
First, make sure that you are taking care of the injury itself. Some people go the chiropractic route, and see me, while others go see a physical therapist. As long as you are seeking out help with a professional, then you are on the right track.
There’s a few things we will look at in order to determine the route we go in the office.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting back to movement.
1. What caused the injury?
There’s a number of reasons for an injury. If they are based around a muscle imbalance or poor posture then your exercises will be based around that. As part of your recovery in the office you’ll be given specific exercises to support a strong foundation in your spine to prevent the injury from recurring. This may not be the movement you had in mind but this is the movement that will be most helpful early in your recovery and care plan.
If it’s more of a trauma or fall based injury, then it’s best to wait until the pain is gone with daily movement. Daily movement is transitional movement between sitting to standing, brushing your hair or teeth, etc. Then, light exercises are suggested to see how you feel the next day. The body has a pain response for a reason and it’s important to honor that. The pain response is a protective mechanism.
2. What did your exercise routine look like before the injury?
If your body was used to working out then you can likely get back to exercising sooner. You should have some muscle mass, balance, and muscle memory already established which makes recovery easier.
If you are just starting out with an exercise plan after an injury then it’s best to start slow. It’s also best to start with low level movement like walking, stairs, or light weights. Then, once you get a base built up then you can do more interval training with walking and jogging.
3. Are you taking any pain relief medication?
Pain medication definitely has a place. If your pain is keeping you up at night then take some pain relievers. It’s also important to remember that pain relievers will mask symptoms and make you feel better than you really are. If you have a new injury and feel on top of the world with some pain medication in your body, then you might feel like you are ready for a workout. Instead, see if you can make it 48 hours without pain medication before making the decision to go back to movement. That way you can truly listen to your body during the recovery process.
4. How do you feel after a workout?
Again, the body will communicate with you if you are jumping in too quickly. Movement after an injury is trial and error. Sometimes, you may feel strong and painless the next day, that’s a great sign! Other times, you may feel an increase in pain and instability. Use that input from your body as a sign to wait a few more days.
This is a great flowchart to use as well.
Ask yourself these questions and you’ll land at the right answer.