Exercise, Nutrition, & Supplement Strategies for Getting Past Injury
Written by Matt Unthank, M.S., CSCS Director of Training at Crossover Symmetry.
Injuries are devastating to athletes. Whether you're rehabbing a knee injury, shoulder injury, or coming back from surgery, they take you away from competition and the community you love.
It is crucial to develop a holistic injury recovery plan to help you get back to training faster. That’s why we teamed up with our friends at Crossover Symmetry to bring you this three part series on injury rehab.
This guide will cover the best exercise, nutrition, and supplement strategies to help you heal like a superhero and get back to things better than before.
Exercise For Injury Rehab
The evidence shows that movement is needed to help treat pain for most conditions and is a critical part of injury healing. Yet, people in pain usually take time off to rest the issue.
Returning to activity after an injury can be a complicated problem that requires different solutions for different issues, but overall, staying active and progressing through pain-free movement is an essential part of each pain plan.
After consulting with athletic therapists, trainers, and the latest research, here are the most important learnings when planning your training program following an injury:
Create an Environment for Healing & Pain Reduction
Exercise provides natural medicine for the body's healing process. It helps to facilitate blood flow and promotes the production of hormones responsible for growth and healing.
It also helps to wave the red flag around what needs attention. By directing our repair systems towards damage, exercise helps guide the generation of strong and healthy tissue.
Movement also impacts the mind along with the body. Exercise demonstrates a pain inhibiting effect through the release of endorphins. Graded exposure to increasingly more challenging exercises, weights, and ranges of motion help to overcome the fear associated with moving an injured area, a problem called kinesiophobia.
It's well known that exercise has a strengthening effect which can create a support structure around an injured area. For the injury site, the right dose at the right time facilitates a more robust structure that's less prone to re-injury.
But strengthening the injury site is only part of it.
Some injuries will not "heal" in the way that we typically think of an injury repairing itself. For many tears, the tissue will never return to the way it once was, but a strengthening program can build compensations to cover up the issue and help it perform in the same way that it did before.
Preserve Fitness During Downtime
Despite the need for movement, recovering from more significant injuries, surgeries, and chronic overuse issues does require some downtime.
That doesn't mean you should watch the minutes tick by until you're healthy again. You should find unique ways to keep yourself active even if they aren't sport-related. It's possible to continue exercising body parts that are unaffected by an injury. Continuing to work can preserve aspects of your fitness and may have a cross-training effect on the opposing side restricted by the injury.
Even if the exercise routine doesn't push your fitness forward, it can help you bounce back to full capacity quicker by preserving as much strength and endurance as possible while maintaining the habit around regular training. Not to mention it's good for mental sanity during a stressful time for any active person.
How to Keep Going
- Start by doing what you can to stay active. Doing light activities like walks, swimming, and stretching place low stress on the body and promote health and happiness.
- Strengthening is a bit more complicated, as the proper dosage of exercise during injury rehab is essential. Doing too much, too fast, can set you back by making the issue worse.
- More significant injuries and rehabilitation from surgery require a careful progression guided by a medical professional. But for the nagging aches and pains that come up with training, it's possible to walk through them on your own with a structured plan of attack. Check out the 30 Day Rehab Plans for Shoulder, Low Back, and Knee pain.
These programs provide a daily dose of stretching and strengthening to help progress you through pain. Each program provides equipment, exercise training, and modifications for movements that are painful.
We also provide you with a red flag screen to identify more significant issues that need further medical evaluation.
Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of the series where we cover nutrition and supplements for injury rehab.