Don’t let those minor injuries turn into chronic ones. What seems like a minor tear or pull can often evolve into something persistent if you keep on aggravating it. And if you’ve been around awhile you are aware that improper rehab can actually hinder your progress.
I know this because I am an old veteran of the physical battles. I believe I have injured just about every working joint I have over the years! But along with this “experience” I’ve also developed an understanding of how to best recover from them. Here is the proper way to look at injuries, and the way you can put them behind you as quickly as possible.
Aging should never be a reason to give up the sports you love. You can always find that seemingly ageless person who still plays hoop competitively with his teenage grandchildren, or the 70-ish senior athlete throwing a football around at the beach, etc. These people usually weren’t blessed with special jeans, they just knew their limitations – and how to extend and prolong them. Treating the consistent little injuries we incur is a huge part of this. Here is what I call the “Listen to your body” approach.
Last month I hurt my right hip doing some exotic form of stretching. I neglected one of my own cardinal rules of thumb – stress each limb the way it was meant to be stressed. The small hip flexors, and the protective stabilizing muscles and tendons of the hip are not meant to be over-strong; if you strive to do so you upset the natural postural and supportive way they were meant to work. I did end up tearing something, but it seemed to start out as a minor one. As is often the case, this type of problem doesn’t work itself out, you have to make some pointed rehab or it will keep coming back, which it certainly did in my case. So I proceeded to square one.
When you first injure a bone, muscle, tendon or joint, ground zero of the injury has absolutely zero capacity to endure stress. That means that your first step is the old R.I.C.E. formula: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. The period for using this first protocol is brief, usually only a day or two. (Bone breaks and complete tears obviously take much longer) You then need to start the rehab process, as beyond healing, strengthening will not take place on its own. But here is where many “physical therapists” make an error.
The afflicted limb must be moved in conjunction with some lightly demanding activity such as walking, but it must not be “worked out” by using bands, or some exotic pose with excentric calesthenics, etc. The movements must be kept very basic at first, as you progress you can begin to stretch it within normal ranges, or shake it out as you go along. You have to favor it, it has to play a supportive role, not function as a main impeller. You really should just listen to your body. Don’t perform a motion that hurts. As a supportive player the joint will strengthen naturally, and you will also not develop minute muscular scar tissue or other chronic complications.
In my own case, after a couple days off, I continued my vigorous workouts, simply favoring my right hip in the process. I used the larger major muscle groups with no small specific muscle focus. As the hip grew stronger I started normal post workout stretches carefully and now 3 weeks later it is gone. Simply left the building. I can tell you one thing I am absolutely sure of however – at my age if I continued to reaggravate it I might find myself in a year or two requiring a hip replacement. Injuries are no joke, they must be carefully repaired and rebuilt.
I’ve got time for another case as someone I know asked me about treating plantar fasciitis. Well I can help them on that one too, because that was last springs injury for me. (this one took awhile to fix). The process was the same. You have knock out the pain a bit first. You can use “frozen balls”, or deep massage of the balls of your feet for this, but you after a day or two of rest you have to begin walking. Again – FAVOR that tendon. Walk a bit flat footed at first (I did this for almost a month) and do not run or work it excessively. By all means seek orthotics or arch supporters, you have to eliminate what caused the problem in the first place. Injections may help severe cases temporarily, but just like renting a car when yours breaks down – this just buys you time, you still have to fix your own car!
Remember to avoid doing unnatural stretches or motions to a weak recovering joint. That is the moral of the day, and the one most important piece of injury advice I can give.
Now I’ll prepare for my next one, I got all my “tools ready” (pictured above)