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Exercise Related Injury Recovery

Exercise Related Injury RecoveryBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

An exercise related injury can happen to anyone regardless of their fitness level.  The cause may be a sudden traumatic event such as a fall, collision or a misstep.  However, many injuries occur gradually and may be due to overuse, unsupportive shoes, or inadequate warm up, stretching or cool down. The most common workout injuries include:

  • Muscle pull or strain – Occurs when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, often as a result of overuse or improper use. 
  • Shin splints –  A condition characterized by pain in the lower part of the leg generally caused by repeated trauma to the connective muscle tissue surrounding the shin bone. 
  • Tendonitis – An inflammation of the tendon resulting in painful movement.  Tendonitis is most often caused by overuse or poor body mechanics. 
  • Dislocations – Joint injuries that force the ends of your bones out of position.  The cause is often a fall or blow or direct physical contact with a finger, shoulder or knee joint. 
  • Sprains – Occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn, typically when a joint is subjected to excessive force or unnatural movement.  The degree of severity varies between a stretched ligament and a partially or completely torn ligament. 
  • Stress fractures –  An overuse injury that occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock.  The overload of stress is transferred to the bone causing a tiny crack.  Most stress fractures are the result of impact, improper equipment or a too rapid increase in intensity.  The majority of stress fractures occur in the lower legs and feet. 
  • Muscle cramps or spasms – Strong and sustained muscle contractions that are generally relieved by gentle stretching. 

Many minor injuries can be treated at home.  Dislocations and torn ligaments require medical assistance.  With lesser injuries, there are three basic phases of recovery:

Immediate post injury.  The first 24 – 48 hours after an injury is referred to as the acute phase.  As quickly as possible after an injury,  follow the RICE program:

  • Rest –  Minimize the movement of the injured body part to give tissues time to heal.
  • Ice –  Icing is a simple and effective way to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling.  Apply an icepack for 10 -15 minutes at a time, every hour for the first four hours.  Then 4 times daily for the next 2 -3 days.  After 48 – 72 hours switch to heat treatments.
  • Compression –  An elastic bandage will help reduce swelling when the injured area is wrapped immediately following an injury.  It should be snug but not too tight.  It may help to pad the injured area before wrapping to allow pressure where it is most needed and relieve pressure stemming from the bandage on area around the injury.
  • Elevation –  Raising the injured part above heart level allows fluid to drain away from injured tissue resulting in reduced pain, swelling and inflammation.
The recovery period.  After you have been pain-free for one week, you can slowly begin active movement.  Once swelling subsides and pain diminishes, you can begin to recover your strength, endurance and range of motion.  Use the same care in your rehabilitation plan that you did in your treatment of the injury.  Practice moderation and start with gentle exercises.  Gradually increase the power and strength of your activity.  Be sure to warm your muscles before exercising, and cool down with ice afterward  if there is any pain or swelling. 

The functional phase. This is the time to work toward full recovery and regain your full exercise capacity.  As you begin to test your limits, use pain and swelling as a guide to  how quickly you can increase intensity and length of exercise.  During this phase it is important to take steps to prevent repeat injury.  Consider using a brace for additional support and continue to ice the injured area after exercise for at least an additional week or two.  

Most importantly, continue to engage in some form of exercise while your body heals and recovers from the injury.  Muscle power fades rapidly when muscles are not used.  Be as active as you can without stressing the injured area.  Try a different form of exercise that allows you to continue some activity.  For example, if you’ve injured your shoulder playing tennis, you can walk for exercise.  If you’ve sprained your ankle, do an upper body workout.  Consider a cross-training exercise such as swimming to aid in full strength and endurance recovery. 

A good tip to remember:  Simple injuries can be easily overcome.  The major illnesses that stem from inactivity are not. 

Supplements to aid injury recovery include:

Acute Phase by Metagenics  is designed to provide targeted nutritional muscle tissue support and minor pain relief.  Featuring premium-grade proteolytic enzymes, targeted herbal extracts, and essential minerals,  Acute Phase is the ideal nutritional component for the first three days following an injury. 

Ligament Restore by Pure Encapsulations  combines ingredients found naturally in tendons, ligaments and joints to help strengthen and support the maintenance and natural repair processes of healthy connective tissue.

Arnicare Gel with MDT Pack by Boiron  is a homeopathic formula that temporarily relieves muscle pain and stiffness due to minor injuries, overexertion and falls.  It also reduces pain, swelling and discoloration from bruises.

Injurotox (B-11) by Apex Energetics provides relief of symptoms from injuries to soft tissues or bones either from recent or existing trauma or impact.  Useful for overuse and muscle weakness and rich in homeopathic phytotherapeutics and flower essences, Injurotox is excellent for injury or surgical recovery. 

Muscle-Aid by BioGenesis Neutraceuticals  is an mineral amino acid chelate and vitamin beverage that includes malic acid, taurine, glutamine, L-carnitine, and selenium for optimizing energy support.  Muscle-Aid helps control muscle spasms, alleviates cramping, and supports cardiovascular health.