A natural tendency, when you suffer an injury, is to stop moving altogether. Several things you normally do now hurt so you’re thinking it’s best to just shut it down for a while.
This is NOT the best choice
I have been guilty of this mistake, many people I know have also been guilty of this mistake.
Don’t shut down
When you stop moving altogether there are several negative consequences that actually delay the healing process.
One of the big problems with total immobility is that your joint and surrounding muscles start to get very stiff. Your body effectively learns a new “normal” that is expressed by your lack of movement, and everything gets tighter, and tighter. This excess neuromuscular tonicity (extra muscle tension dictated by the nervous system) promotes and reinforces this new stiffened up position.
In the case of moving smoothly past an injury, it’s important to discontinue painful movements immediately, but reintroduce non-painful movement as soon as possible in every way possible.
In several types of injuries, studies have concluded that early mobilization is superior to plaster immobilization. This movement should be non-painful, of course.
In elbow dislocations for example:
When I was at the most recent San Diego Shoulder Conference, several of the speakers recommended post op mobility as early as possible in most cases. (Note: this is not medical advice, simply serving as an example that even in severe injuries, movement is important).
It’s always important to contact a trusted medical professional when you encounter an injury, but a lot of the time if it’s not serious and you just move every way you can without pain–you’ll see a major and faster return to full non-painful function.
Seize the Opportunity
Consider that an injury in one area can be an opportunity to focus on another area, physically. For example, if you injure any part of your lower extremities, it’s upper body time, especially things that are non-load-bearing like pullups, dips, and other gymnastics movements. The opposite is also true, if you break your upper body down, it’s time to focus on your leg strength and flexibility.
This can be a huge advantage because it’s impossible to focus 100% on everything all the time. By taking away some of your options, it can actually give you more clarity on what to do with your time, and where to put your focus.
There is also substantial evidence that training the opposite side can increase the healing and preserve strength on the injured side. i.e. you can heal faster, and keep some of your strength on an injured right shoulder if you continue to move and train the left one.
Even if you’ve been advised to keep an injured area immobilized, please, for the love of god, keep moving everything else. It will really make a difference.
Pain and injuries are going to happen to all of us at some point, especially if we are truly living this life to it’s full potential–don’t fear it, just be ready for it.
Better every day,