Injuries SUCK! That’s the hard truth. Injuries can come from a variety of ways, but regardless of how you became injured it’s most important to take care of yourself so you can recover. I have found through my various injuries that it’s often possible to stay fit while recovering. Note: whenever you have an injury you should consult a doctor to come up with your own recovery plan. Working out during all injuries may not be possible, so talk with your doctor to see what types of exercises are possible during that particular injury.
I’ve had two major injuries in my life and two pregnancies/births that I have been able to stay pretty fit during. Some background on my injuries:
INJURY #1: Severally sprained ankle. Including a ligament that completely tore so hard at the bone that it tore off a piece of the bone, bone chipped on other side of ankle from hitting together so hard, small fracture, fluid in the bones, and a bruised talus bone. Yeah, it sucked and even though it happened 10 years ago I still have issues with it (primarily b/c I didn’t get an MRI, so didn’t realize the extent of the injury until 3 yrs after it happened).
- HOW I STAYED FIT: Being on crutches is NOT fun and when you can’t even walk, it’s hard to feel any motivation to workout. However, my body craves movement, so I did a plethora of situps, pushups (injured foot up in air), and upper body strength training in a seated and supine position. As soon as I was able I started riding a stationary bike and continued to work my uninjured leg with side lying leg raises, one legged leg press, etc. There have been many studies that show training one arm or leg can help keep strength in the opposite arm or leg, so it can be good to work the uninjured side in many cases.
- HOW I RESTED & HEALED: Until the pain was bearable I mainly iced, compressed, elevated, and popped ibuprofen! For weeks after the injury I would try to elevate and ice after my various workouts. I also attended physical therapy and stayed on top of my PT exercises. Because I, or my PT, didn’t know the extent of my injury (without the MRI) we both pushed a little too fast for me to be running. This was a lesson learned that if you think something is seriously wrong you need to stand up for yourself and listen to your body. I honestly wondered if I was just being a baby about the pain when I tried to run since the PT said it was fine to run, so I foolishly pushed through. We live and we learn, which brings me to Injury #2
INJURY #2 (current): Disc extrusion in my neck, which is a degenerative spine condition where the nucleus material of a disc seeped into my spinal column and compressed/damaged a nerve. It happened to be the nerve that tells my deltoid to work. So, for 8 weeks now my left deltoid isn’t working. I was in severe pain for 6 weeks and couldn’t even lift my left arm laterally, but now the pain is minimal and I have a little strength back in my arm (can laterally raise 3lbs!). The nerve that was damaged now has to grow back and only grows 1-inch per month, so patience is a must.
- HOW I STAYED FIT: This was HARD because of the extreme amount of pain I was in. BUT, when I had a slight break in the pain I would try to walk. The pain was the least about 1 hour after I woke up, so on weekends I would go to the gym and do the seated leg machines and slowly graduated to standing lower body exercises. I also did the leg part of the eliptical to get my heart rate up. As the pain lessened even more I began doing light lifting with my right arm and now am able to do very light weights with my left arm. I walked up/down stairs a lot too. I always made sure not to overdo it and if I felt any strain in my neck I stopped immediately. I also really focused on what I was eating. Since my workouts were much less intense I knew I couldn’t eat the same amount I usually do. So, I made sure to plan out all my meals, meal prep, and eat more whole foods.
- HOW I RESTED & HEALED: I was miserable! As soon as the pain came I scheduled an appointment with my physical therapist, primary physician, and chiropractor. I was icing, using heat, taking ibuprofen like crazy, but the pain increased and before I knew it my arm had excessive weakness. I quickly had to swallow my pride and ask for help (not something I do well). But, being in that much pain, and not being able to lift anything with my left arm, while working as a personal trainer and as a mom was so humbling and difficult. I hired babysitters on occasion and asked a family member to take my kids out for walks while I laid in bed. Throughout this all I was in bed whenever I could be and owe a huge thanks to my husband for all of his support. Unfortunately my primary doctor did NOT want to provide me with pain medication even when the two different muscle relaxers did nothing. He also wouldn’t refer me for an MRI which I requested after 2 weeks. Finally, after three weeks and having me cry in his office he broke down and gave me pain meds (which ended up not helping either), and an MRI. I fought for myself in this instance, since I learned from injury #1 that I know my body and when something is wrong! After the MRI we realized the seriousness of the injury and I met with an orthopedic who was able to give me oral steroids, which helped a ton as they focus on the nerve pain. He was also able to explain everything to me and allow me to truly start my healing. He and my chiropractor said no more chiropractic adjustments as they are too dangerous with this type of injury. Now I am still seeing my physical therapist and slowly and carefully exercising as my body allows me to. I am taking things one day at a time and enjoying the creativity I have to use to continue my workouts. In the last week I have been able to start running again, which has been amazing. One day at a time.
As mentioned above, not every injury is the same and not everyone should workout during certain injuries, but working with a doctor and/or physical therapist can be a great way to educate yourself on things you CAN do during an injury to keep fit without causing a delay in your recovery.
Be sure to be your own advocate and listen to your body. No one else can feel what you feel and if you know something is really wrong then push your doctor to explore the issue further. Rest as much as needed and move in ways you see fit when your body lets you know it’s ok. Healing should be your #1 priority!