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Focus On Fitness: Working Out While Injured

Safedesk is hardcore... It's all about Tigers for the crutch padsphoto © 2009 Jay Cuthrell | more info (via: Wylio)You have finally committed to your healthy lifestyle change and are in a healthy fitness routine!  You’ve reduced your calories and increased your activity. Then one unsuspecting day you don your workout clothes, tie on your sneakers — and the next thing you know, you’re yelping in pain.

Experts say a workout injury can happen to anyone, regardless of experience or conditioning.

“A pulled muscle, a strained back, a turned ankle, a shoulder sprain — it can happen in the blink of an eye, usually when you least expect it,” says Todd Schlifstein, DO, clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at New York University Medical Center.

If you’re a beginner exercising to lose weight, the risk of injury may be even greater, with hot spots that also include knees and ankles.

Pain vs. Soreness: Know the Signs

Even if you’re already in good shape, experts say problems can occur if you overuse any one set of muscles. To keep this from happening, ease into the activity slowly and never skip warm-ups.

“Some more advice: Stop immediately if you do feel pain, and rest for a day. If pain begins when you do the same motion again, says Schlifstein, it’s a sure bet you’ve got an injury.

But how do you know you’ve got an injury and are not just sore from working out??

Soreness usually shows up one or two days after you work out, and does not usually occur while you are actually doing the activity.

If you try to work out when you’re feeling sore, the pain usually subsides after 10-15 minutes of activity. Not so when an injury is involved.

Of course, while precautions like warming up and starting slowly can reduce your risk of injury, there’s always a chance you’ll get hurt anyway. The experts say it’s important to remember that all but the most severe workout injuries usually heal on their own. Most people can usually heal their injury on their own using the RICE procedure, which is rest, ice, compression and elevation. And the sooner after the injury you begin, the more you reduce the risk of inflammation setting in, and the quicker you can get back on your feet.

Until you’re healed, avoid doing whatever activity you were doing when you got the injury, as well as other moves that involve the injured area.

If the injury doesn’t feel significantly better within a week — and certainly if it feels worse — seek medical care. Any numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg, or sudden bladder- or bowel-related problems should be reported to a doctor right away.

Move It Or Lose It

Though you never want to stress an injured area with a workout, neither is it a good idea to take to your bed for more than a day or two after being injured. Instead, doctors say, you should get back to normal movement as soon as possible.

The more you can encourage normal movement, the quicker the healing process will begin.

And, doctors say, one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and weight is to start a brand-new fitness activity — one that doesn’t stress your injured muscle.

The human being is a unique machine with some 536 muscles in the body, so if you pull a hamstring for example, and you’ve lost the capacity to work out four or five related muscles, you’ve still got some 530 other muscles in the body to help you burn calories.

If your injury is to the lower part of your body, Schlifstein says, concentrate on upper-body workouts like lifting weights or working out on an “arm bicycle.”And if you have an upper-body injury (Weil says the most common problems are tendinitis or a shoulder injury), turn to your lower half to keep up your conditioning.Riding an exercise bike is good and walking — but not running — on a treadmill, since sometimes jarring motions may aggravate a shoulder injury. You can also do resistance training on your lower body while your upper body heals.

Returning to the Game

Whether your injury slows you down for several weeks or a much shorter time, the key to returning to your workout safely is to start out at a much slower pace.One reason, is that you can lose muscle much faster than you gain it. Without use, muscle atrophy can begin within two days.One week wrapped in an Ace bandage, and it can take three to four weeks to regain strength in the injured area.Also, going back to your activity before you’re healed puts you at risk of further damage and a longer healing time.If you compound an injury with a second injury in the same area, it can take much longer to heal.

How do you know when you’re ready to go back? Experts say you should give your body at least one week with no pain before you try again.You have to be able to go through the motion — without actually doing the exercise — pain-free for one week before you can be sure you’re ready to resume your activity.When you do return, the experts say, work on rebuilding the power in your injured area one step at a time. Within three weeks or less you should be back to your original level of fitness, and then you can feel free to build on your strength from there. We care about your progress but we care more about your health and safety. When in doubt, listen to you doctor and your coach.

Originally published: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=56302&page=2

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