29 February 2012

Should you exercise with an injury?

I recently researched the topic of exercising with an injury after I tweaked my lower back lifting my 43-lb child over a snow bank.  I didn't want to be sidelined, but wanted find a way to keep momentum and motivation going.

My pain wasn't so bad that I needed to visit a doctor.  Until the soreness and stiffness subsided, I wanted to find an exercise that I could safely do.  But what?  Was swimming my only alternative for a low-impact, weight-supported exercise?

My husband (a Track and CC coach) advised,
“Do what you can do.  Try your regular workout, but always stop if you are in pain.  My general rule is: if you have discomfort or soreness, you can usually work through it.  Sometimes injuries will loosen up with activity.” 
If you do need to find an alternate activity, he suggests swimming for knee, hip or IT band problems.  He echoed trainers citing biking and rowing as other sports that are easier on joints.

The AmericanCollege of Sports Medicine recommends people with knee injuries incorporate

backward-pedaling cardiovascular exercise (backward strides on treadmills and elliptical machines) into your rehabilitation program.  Elmarie Terblanche, Ph.D., lead author of the study said,
“Participants who used backward locomotion showed significantly greater gains in quadriceps and hamstring strength. Additionally, they had greater aerobic capacity than the forward-locomotion group.” 
As important as exercise is for rehabilitation (or in my case, revising my exercise plan to avoid aggravating an injury), is taking precautions to prevent injury.  My obvious error was in how I lifted the weight with my back (not legs) at an awkward angle.  Katie Sulc Stafford, a personal friend and a Personal Trainer in MA, commented,
“A great exercise for anyone, especially those with back injuries, is Pilates - with a reputable instructor. The core is an important link in our bodies. Having a strong core makes the rest of your body stronger.” 
Clickhere for 3 exercises (explained for three audiences: exercisers, athletes, and those in the workplace) that will help strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.

During the week that I rested from my normal exercise, I swam, walked briskly on the treadmill with an incline and did yoga stretches.  Below are more informative articles on the topic, each emphasizes consulting a doctor if your injury is serious, and resting the area affected. 

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