3 Tips For Recovering From an Injury
Injuries suck. They leave you in pain, limited in motion (depending on the injury) and things don’t work quite right afterwards. The usual response to an injury is to ice it, wrap it, pop a pill or two and keep it moving.
But does that really address the issue? Does that really build a defense against further injury? Answer: It doesn’t. It sets you up for a re-injury later down the line. The truth is: every time you get injured that tissue surrounding that joint doesn’t quite work the same. It doesn’t quite function the same. And when I say tissue, I don’t just mean muscles. I mean the tendons, ligaments and cartilage as well! Like muscles, these tissues can be loaded and be made stronger. They can be stressed and create adaptation to help defend you against this chaotic world we live in.
Second truth: you CANNOT prevent injury. You simply can’t. Shit happens and when it does you can’t predict it. The best thing you can do is increase your defenses and create resilient joints and tissue so that when injuries do happen, you can bounce back as quickly as you fell down. Injury MITIGATION is where it’s at. Preparing your body as best as you can is the only way you help yourself bounce back from injuries when they eventually do happen.
So let’s dive into these 3 tips.
The first is THE most important. You can’t make changes and build defenses if you don’t where the holes in your back line are.
GET ASSESSED BY A PROFESSIONAL
The assessment is THE first step to injury mitigation because it gives you an overview of what’s going on with your body. You can’t change your position if you don’t first know where you’re at. So with that being said, your first tip is to get assessed by a professional who specializes in making people move nice. A physical therapist, a trainer (mobility focused) or someone else that is specifically catered to helping people improve their movement. When you decide to go to that person to get assessed make sure you tell them what’s going on with you. Tell them about your injuries, limitations and pains you have. They should ask you all of these things, but I just wanna make sure you get your money’s worth. The professional needs to know what prior issues you have to adjust the assessment appropriately.
Throughout the process they should always be checking in with you to see how things feel. They should not just rely on what they see. Make sure you’re very open about how the positions they put you in and motions they ask you to do FEEL. Sometimes your “form” can be perfect but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience pain or discomfort. I see that all the time. A client with have a picture perfect squat, but feel a pinch or tightness in one specific hip. Because they think it’s normal to feel that they won’t say anything. But I’ll inquire and ask if they feel any pinching, pulling, pain or discomfort and they’ll usually go “oh, yeah in my…[insert joint and sensation]”. It’s not your job to know why things are the way they are [yet], but don’t ignore any kind of pains and discomfort you feel.
Be aware of what’s going on. That will be the key for the professional to give you an accurate diagnosis or movement plan following the assessment to get you feeling amazing! Ask a lot of questions. Be inquisitive about your body. The better you understand your body, the better off you’ll be in the future. Awareness is 90% of the battle.
If you don’t feel like doing the leg work, schedule a call with me here and I can assess you digitally. My assessments are very thorough and I explain the relevance of each finding in relation to whatever your goals are. Following the assessment I can also develop a mobility plan for you to start seeing those movement gains you’re looking for to recover from those injuries!
Whatever you choose to do, you’ll have the knowledge to go into your life doing the best movements and developing the best habits for your results. So now that you know what’s up with your body, now what do you do?
TAKE ACTION CONSISTENTLY
After you know what’s going on and you have a plan to get busy, you HAVE to make the time to get busy. These adaptations take time. I’m talking weeks and even months. You may be on a plan for 8 weeks and in weeks 7-8 you don’t really see any changes. It could be in that 8th week where you really see shit change and function better. But if you don’t keep up the work until then, you’ll see limited and minimal gains. When you get injured you have to first recover to the baseline BEFORE the injury and THEN you can improve after that. So you have some leg work ahead of you.
But the only way to truly recover from that injury is to simply put the work in. Even on a shitty plan you’ll still see results. Why? Because the stress you’re applying to the tissues will still (in the beginning) force adaptation and thus an increase in resilience/ strength. But you’ll never build that resilience if you don’t put in the work. Patience is definitely a virtue. But trust me, it IS rewarded. It just takes time.
Getting more mobile after an injury is like ANYTHING that takes time and consistent to accomplish: it’s simple, but NOT easy. Simple meaning you know exactly what to do, how long to do it for, and when to do it. But not easy because it’s hard to stay on track. But here’s the key for remembering why you’re doing: pain fucking sucks. Pain doesn’t have to be a part of your life, but it takes time to get out of pain depending on what’s going on with your body. I know it seems “fine” now, but when the things you take for granted aren’t available to you, you’ll understand how severe injuries can get. Things like reaching for a cabinet, opening a door, putting on a backpack or taking off a shirt get difficult and painful. You’ll get that painful realization of “oh shit, that really hurts” and then you’ll be gung ho on mobility and taking those actions. But you can potentially prevent that moment from happening if you put the work in!
And I’m not trying to scare you into action. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to help you treat your body right and give it the love it needs. For years I neglected mobility and let my injuries “heal” with rest and ice. Then I would try to get back to lifting and my joints would disagree with me. In fact, they would fight against me and give me pain. So don’t make my mistakes, take action and get busy on your results as soon as you can. When you’re feeling freaking amazing and your joints are buttery, you’ll thank me later!
So now that you know what’s up and what to do with it, what’s next? The final step is adjustment.
ADJUST YOUR PROGRAM TO FIT YOUR PREREQUISITES
The final step to recovering from an injury and mitigating the risk for further risk is to use all the information you gained in the assessment to adjust program. Take a hard look at your program and see what movements don’t quite match up with your current mobility based on the injury you’re recovering from and what other limitations you may have. This analysis is SO key to continuing to progress in your program without guaranteeing more issues down the line. Because be very clear: I think lifting weights is a GREAT thing. Helps you build strong muscles and bones. BUT, if you don’t have the necessary mobility to accomplish these movements, you’re only setting yourself up for further injury down the line.
Remember: there is no ONE exercise or movement that can’t be modified to your mobility to accomplish the SAME goal you had with the previous modality.
You have time on your side. As you rebuild your joints and recover from your injury, you can still lift! Longevity is the key. No need to rush your gains or do a certain lift. So if you can’t do conventional deadlifts because your hamstrings are too tight at the moment, change the modality to a hex bar deadlift that doesn’t need as much mobility there and will protect your back while you build your mobility. This will still allow you to perform the SAME movement without putting your body at risk for FURTHER injury.
The big three lifts (deadlift, squat, bench) have so many different variations that you never HAVE to do any of them. That attachment to a certain movement if you don’t have the prerequisites for them, will again lead to injury or building compromised strength on top of compensations. This type of strength isn’t REAL strength, it’s temporary until shit breaks down and you can’t lift at all. Don’t let it get there.
So I want to take you through assessing a certain motion and looking at all the prerequisites a movement needs to be performed. It’s going to be detailed and it’s going to seem excessive, but it’s 100% necessary if you wanna lift for longer than a few months without having to stop for an injury.
Let’s look at the back squat:
1.) Hip Flexion, Hip Internal Rotation
When you lower into a squat the angle between your legs and torso gets smaller. This is called hip flexion. In order to accomplish this position with control, you need strong hip flexors. If you can’t pull your knees past hip level into deep hip flexion with strength, there’s NO way you’ll be able to do that in the loaded deep squat. Weakness and lack of mobility in this area tends to result in a pinchy sensation in the front of the hip.
You also need internal rotation of the hip as you descend into the squat. Lack of internal rotation usually results in a huge turnout of the feet to help the hips open up because they get inhibited by a lack of space to rotate. Turning out the feet helps most people get over this. But if you had more hip IR you would get more power through your hips and wouldn’t need to turn out as much.
2.) Ankle Dorsiflexion
The whole knee over toe is bad for you is incorrect. You NEED your knees to travel over your toes in the squat. Ankle Dorsiflexion is what’s going on here. But tight and weak ankles usually lead to the knees stopping short of adequate dorsiflexion to sink deeper into the squat. This lack of mobility in the ankle usually leads to a wider stance and turned out feet to compensate.
3.) Knee Flexion
Just like your hip angle, your knee angle gets smaller. This motion is called knee flexion. If you don’t have strength in this position, you won’t have stability and control as you descend. It’s important to train this position and improve hamstring functionality in this position to ensure that you can complete a squat without popping, pulling or pain in the knees.
4.) Thoracic Extension
Your T-Spine is such a crucial part of the squat. Being able to extend your Thoracic Spine during the descent of the squat helps keep a more upright position protecting your lower back from damage long term. If you can’t do this position, you’ll usually have a rounded back, a bent over chest position, or a flared rib cage during the squat. All of those positions are no bueno long term for heavy squats.
5.) Shoulder External Rotation + Shoulder Extension
Creating that shelf on the back for the barbell to rest on as you descend into the squat is from being able to engage all the muscles on your upper back. If you can’t achieve adequate external rotation of the shoulder + extension you’ll most likely end up bending your wrists, feeling tension and pain on the top of the shoulders where the bar is resting, or have some pain in the arms. Your body will perform the motions you tell it to. It’s just that these positions may not always be achieved in the most efficient manner.
So looking at all these positions, can your body do each of these positions individually, with strength and control? If the answer is no, you NEED to modify your program. Am I telling you can’t squat all together? Of course, not. You just need to modify it so that you don’t need to have ALL of these prerequisites.
A lot of the time, people struggle to get the shoulders in the right position and the thoracic spine is tight from a lot of sitting. Okay! While we work on that stuff, let’s do some Goblet Squats:
This modality is WAY easier on the upper spine and shoulders but still allows you to squat heavy with a big ass dumbbell while you work on that mobility. So there’s always a way to accomplish the goal of a stronger squat, bigger legs, or whatever you’re looking to do with the squat without HAVING to back squat specifically.
So by now you can see how important mobility is for mitigating your risk of injury. While you recover from your current injury (if you have one) look at your current mobility routine. Is it just stretching? Is it really making changes that last for more than a day? Then look at your training program. Do you have all the prerequisites to perform a back squat? Do you have all the prerequisites to accomplish those movements? If the answer to any of those questions I just asked is a no, something needs to change. You’ll continue to be trapped in this injured, somewhat recovered back to injured state forever. You’ll never truly be 100%.
If you need some help structuring your program based on your mobility, recovering from an injury past “healed”, sign up for a consultation call here and we can talk about how to get you to 100%!
Looking forward to hearing from you!