So, you've sprained your ankle, tweaked your back, or done something equally delightful to your muscles and joints. Your first instinct? Rest, right? Well, hold onto your crutches because I'm here to tell you that sometimes, rest is not always the best prescription for MSK injuries.
Every single day, I have a conversations with people who have had an injury, rested it, tried to do something and the pain has just come back. On every sport forum in the land, whenever anyone mentions an injury, “rest” is always the most common piece of advice.
Sure, when you're hurting, the thought of staying in bed or on the couch seems pretty appealing. But here's the deal: inactivity can lead to stiffness. Your joints and muscles tighten up, making your recovery longer and more uncomfortable. Instead of being a couch potato, consider gentle, controlled movements to maintain mobility and reduce that dreaded stiffness.
Rest can weaken your muscles, and weak muscles can spell disaster for your recovery. You see, strong muscles are like shock absorbers for your joints. They help stabilize and protect them. If all about you do is rest, you risk losing muscle strength, which can make you more prone to re-injury. So, don't be afraid to incorporate some light resistance exercises into your routine.
Being side-lined by an injury can mess with your head as much as your body. The frustration, anxiety, and fear of losing progress can be real. Staying active is scientifically proven to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression so keeping active is good for both mind and body.
Here's a cool science fact: many injuries and tissues actually NEED exercise to heal fully. The most evidenced treatment for tendinitis is a loading programme. Joints get their nutrition from movement, bones get stronger from weight bearing. There are even some studies that show that people who manage small avulsion ankle fractures with graded exercise have better outcomes long term than those who have a cast or are non-weight bearing.
One of the goals of recovery is to regain your independence as quickly as possible. Being too cozy with rest can delay that process. Learning how to safely move and perform daily activities while injured is crucial for getting back on your feet faster.
I can't stress this enough: always, always, always consult an injury rehabilitation professional before deciding how much or how little to do during your recovery. They can provide you with a tailored plan that takes your specific injury and circumstances into account. What works for one injury might not work for another.
Instead of calling it rest, reframe it as relative rest or optimal loading. Do a bit, recover a bit, and keep repeating that. It’s not a case of ploughing on as if nothing ever happened but nor is it plonking your arse on the sofa for days on end….
Ultimately, the goal is to get back to doing what you love, whether it's running marathons, dancing, or just being able to carry groceries without wincing. Rest can be part of the healing process, but it's not the sole hero in your injury saga.
When you are injured you are x5 more likely to get injured again – often due to deconditioning and loss of mobility.
So, my lovely injured folk, remember this: rest isn't always the best answer. Embrace your recovery with a mix of rest and controlled, supervised activity. Your body and mind will thank you, and you'll be back to doing your thing sooner than you think!
Stay resilient, stay active, and stay on the path to recovery!