Have you ever felt a nagging pain in your knee during an intense workout, and convinced yourself to train through the pain?  Perhaps you took an over-the-counter pain reliever once you got home and purchased a compression sleeve to wear while your knee healed.  The pain began to subside at first, but something else happened... Your hip started to hurt and other, seemingly unrelated, injuries began popping up on a regular basis.

Small injuries can cause big pains, mentally and physically, and it’s important to take steps to improve muscle flexibility and joint mobility to protect your body from further mishaps.  Being able to mobilize your muscles and move your limbs through a full range of motion is an often overlooked component of injury rehabilitation and prevention.  With the help of a physical therapist or personal trainer, use these helpful tips to get back on track after an injury.

Don’t Put a Bandaid On a Broken Bone

Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong.  Avoid masking your pain with over-the-counter medications, splints or wraps and seek the advice of a physical therapist or chiropractor to understand how to prevent further irritation of your injury with the least impact to your lifestyle as your body heals.  Relying on quick fixes for a prolonged amount of time could negatively impact your recovery time and potentially cause muscle imbalances that could worsen your condition.

Target Your Trigger Points

Muscle knots are a common source of soft tissue pain and injuries.  These tiny adhesions, or “trigger points”, develop in a muscle when it is injured, and can limit your flexibility, causing joint pain and a variety of other aches throughout your body.  Targeting your trigger points, through sports massage or self-myofascial release, will elicit a neuromuscular response that can help rebuild muscles and restore range of motion to your joints. 

Improve Physical Weaknesses

If an injury is preventing from training as normal, make the most of your downtime by addressing other weaknesses you may have.  Low impact exercises, using resistance bands or medicine balls for example, can help improve balance, flexibility and core strength, which will pay dividends when you are finally back on your feet and performing at your optimal level.  For added benefit, these exercises can be arranged in a circuit fashion for a cardio workout that also builds muscular strength and stability.

Avoid Doing Too Much Too Soon

You may be feeling frustrated with your lack of activity and tempted to hit the gym for a long cardio session on the Stair Master, stationary bike or treadmill.  However, long bouts of cardio can grind away at your joints and inefficiently train the very muscles you are trying to repair.  When recovering from an injury, you may want to halt your normal cardio routine, and start practicing endurance training with simple, single joint exercises using light weights and high repetition schemes.

Resume Strength Training

Once you build your comfort level with endurance training, strength training is the final step in rehabilitation.  Using heavier weights with the goal of increasing muscle fiber recruitment and overall strength, strength training could possibly aid in preventing future injuries by increasing blood flow to muscles that are hungry for oxygen and nutrients, and helping to improve coordination and neurologic function with each workout.  At this stage, you may consider hiring a personal trainer to properly coach you through a well-balanced training routine.

Sarah Dalton is the founder of Able Mind Able Body, a Las Vegas based company offering motivational lifestyle coaching and personal training services.  She takes a holistic approach to healthy living, and educates others on the benefits of nutrition, exercise, and emotional health.  Visit www.ablemindablebody.com for more info.