Training Through Injury

So, you’re injured. Now what?

While it’s true that the first priority should be recovery, this doesn’t mean that you should stop training altogether. Sometimes injuries are caused by overuse or overtraining, which means you might need to back off on your training. In this case, your body isn’t able to recover properly resulting in a chronic injury. If the injury is acute, that is caused by one incident, this means that the affected area should rested, but you can continue to train around the injury.

If you’ve injured yourself, talk with a physician or physiotherapist first. Get your injury diagnosed by a professional who is qualified to advise you whether or not you can continue training. Don’t Google your injury and self-diagnose. Having a proper diagnosis will mean that a trainer will have a better idea of the course of action to take post-injury and will also inform how the injury should be rehabilitated. Better yet, having your trainer and physiotherapist working together will ensure a more complete approach to recovery. Knowledge is power – take the initiative and be active in your own recovery by getting assessed properly right away.

If you choose to work around an injury and continue to train during your recovery, then truly work around the injury. Don’t do things that “sort-of hurt” or get better after a warm up set. If there truly is pain during the first movement, you’re doing more damage than you are helping yourself. Adrenaline and endorphins can make you feel better when you’re actually doing damage. If you’re hurting, you’re not healing. Bottom line: if it hurts, stop.

Be careful not to allow this to create other injuries from compensating or only training one way. It’s fine to train one side when the other is injured but be aware of compensating patterns and how the movement will affect other areas. For example, if you have injured one shoulder, you can train the other but be aware of how this constant unilateral training will affect the neck and back on both sides of the body.

Injury recovery can be separated into two aspects: physical and mental. The physical component of recovery is the physical healing of the injured tissue. Whether you’ve suffered a strain, sprain, dislocation or fracture, the injured tissue needs to heal, meaning it must be rested. The mental component of recovery is training the brain. When we are injured, our brain flags whatever movement resulted in the injury, and usually also flags movements that resulted in pain after the injury. What this means for many people is that the movement triggers a feeling of pain long after the injury has healed. The brain needs to be retrained to learn that these movements are safe again. Typically, this can be done by completing the movement under control, slowly, under different types of load and through the full range of motion repetitively. This process involves learning to differentiate between pain and discomfort. You can train through discomfort, but never train through pain.

At the end of the day, recovery is almost always an active process whether you’re training your body or your mind. Don’t let an injury get in the way of your goals, just adjust your course of action.

Kristen Hansen, BA, CSEP-CPT, PFT-NAIT, NASM-CES, FRCms