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Rebuilding After Injury – How Much Is Too Much

Recovering from an injury is a long and frustrating process, especially when there are setbacks.  Things can be going great and then you test a new movement or run just a little bit further and rather than feeling great, you feel pain in the area where you were injured. You think you ruined everything. A flood of emotions run through you – fear, anger, frustration, and many more.  

The recovery and rebuilding process is just that – a process! It is not just a pretty straight line that constantly trends upward.  It is a very irregular, wavy line with hills and valleys with an overall upward trend.  As clinicians and coaches, when an athlete is coming back from injury, it is our job to start testing the body in a controlled environment and with movements we are pretty confident will be fine, but things don’t always turn out the way we think they will. 

Whether you are doing the rebuilding process on your own or with a clinician or coach, how do you know if what you are doing is too much?  There are several things we can break down here that can help you decipher that: type of pain, severity of the pain, and longevity of the pain. 

Type of pain: What does the pain feel like?  Is it sharp so that every movement stops you in your tracks?  Or is it more of a general achiness in the area that was injured, something that you notice but doesn’t necessarily stop you from doing anything? Aching typically means the area has been worked and is a little irritated, but not that any damage was done. When the pain is sharp, it does cause a little more of a concern of re-injury. 

Severity of pain: I truly hate the pain scale, but it can be a helpful self-assessment. Is the pain an intense 7-9/10 when you move?  Or is it a lower 13/10?  The low pain levels are typically just a sign that the area has been worked, possibly irritated a bit, and is likely fatigued. When the pain is more intense, it is possible something in the area has been damaged a little more…but then again, not necessarily. 

Longevity of pain: Is the discomfort you feel gone in 24 hours?  Or is it lasting for several days? Short-lived discomfort is totally normal during the rehab and rebuilding process. Usually that discomfort is gone within 24 hours. 

So what do we do with this information? 

If you are working with a clinician or coach, talk to that person and describe what is going on so things can be adjusted properly or re-assessed if the professional feels there is something more going on. 

If you are rebuilding on your own, first and foremost, if you are truly concerned something is re-injured, talk to the medical provider who you were seeing before.  Secondly, never push through pain!  

Now that I have that covered, if your symptoms are more mild and you are not concerned about further damage, but you wake up the next morning and the area is still achy, take a day off to let things recover.  When you return to training or your rehab routine, keep everything the same until you can do what you did the previous day without the aching. Once you achieve that, you can continue progressing your exercises. On the other hand, if you wake up the next morning and things feel great, then continue progressing as you feel appropriate.  

Have more questions on how to rebuild properly or want some help you make sure you do it right?  Schedule a free call with Dr. Brianne Showman so you can talk through your situation and gain a better understanding on what to do through the recovery and rebuilding process. 

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