It happens to the best of us. I was lifting weights at the gym last February and sudden felt a sharp pain in my lower back that caused me to nearly collapse. Just a few years before I was playing basketball, leapt for a rebound, and landed with all my weight on someone’s foot-effectively rupturing my ankle. Both of these experiences were extremely painful. And very hard to bounce back from. But injury recovery isn’t an impossibility.
But it takes a plan.
First Things First for Injury Recovery
I’m not a doctor, nor am I a physical therapist. I haven’t studied injuries beyond what I have experienced myself (and brain injuries—just because they’re fascinating).
So I’m not talking about bouncing back from brain or spinal injury. Or some bizarre injury to your organs or your manhood.
With that said, let’s jump into bouncing back from injury and how to make the most of your injury recovery.
Injury Recovery Best Practices: Where do I start?
Here’s the obvious—and it’s for those that have insurance and the monetary means. I’ll continue the list below for those that don’t have money to unload on injury recovery.
1. Go to a Sports Doctor
Trust me, going to your general practioner is likely to derail you from getting back into your sport. Unless they themselves are athletes, the first thing they are going to tell you is to stop what you’re doing.
That might be wise, but not for everyone in every situation. Go to a sports doctor who really knows what they’re talking about.
2. Physical Therapy or a Chiropractor?
Leave that decision up to your doctor. Some die hard chiropractor fans will tell you to go to one for nearly anything affecting your back.
That won’t necessarily solve the problem.
If your doctor prescribes physical therapy, it’s a worthwhile investment. It might be an expensive one, but get started now. I wish I had done physical therapy for earlier injuries a long time ago.
If a sports doctor or therapist isn’t in your reach:
3. Train Smarter
Many sports and running injuries are due to overuse. Listen to your body, and be willing to dial it down when you need to recover. That leads me to…
You are going to need to rest more to bounce back from your injury.
You can still train hard, but if your body is working to hard at muscle recovery that you aren’t able too keep up with the healing process, you’ll subvert yourself in the long run.
Your body needs the right fuel to rebuild muscle, heal ligaments, and fix broken bones. Feed it right. Protein, calcium, and not trash. Finding a respected nutritionist will help with this.
6. Work on your form
“Chronic pain and injuries are often caused and aggravated by bad habits in our posture and gait,” says physical therapist Rik Misuria, owner of Central Park & Bryant Park Physical Therapy.
For starters you can visit an advanced runner’s store. Look online and call ahead to see if they do gait analyses. If you can’t find one, research online about gait. This is important to any sport that incorporates running.
For other movements, get feedback on your form, and watch videos of the pros doing it correctly.
7. Pay attention to your small muscles
If you’re body building, don’t overload your lesser muscle groups. By focusing solely on compound movements, you may be neglecting other important muscles that sustain the large ones. If your smaller muscles can’t handle the load, then you’ll injure them.
Muscles that are often ignored are hip ab- and adductors, all four heads of the shoulder, and the muscles in your feet.
In terms of running, less than half of leg injuries are to the knee. Here’s the breakdown*:
- Lower leg-13%
Remember—I’m not a doctor. My first advice to you is to go see one—a sports doctor. The one I had last year did jiu jitsu, surfed, and played basketball. Therefore he was familiar with how I got all of my injuries. Sports doctors are active, therefore the perfect fit for a fit person to see.
Bouncing back from injury: psychologically
If you have a significant injury, it’s not only a challenge physically to recover from, but it will take some bouncing back psychologically.
When I was 15 I broke my collar bone and hurt my back really bad. As a teenager it was very discouraging to have back problems so young. At first I had the will to push through pain and stay active. But as weeks turned into months, the pain and reinjury got to me emotionally. It was hard to stay active because I began to get afraid of the permanent damage.
Chronic pain is real and should be listened to. Fear does make us aware of something that might be wrong. So listen to it, but don’t let it paralyze you from progressing out of your injured state.
Want to read more of our thoughts on overcoming fear? Check out our collection of articles on kicking fear in the face by clicking here.
Listen up Men
You CAN bounce back from injury. Injury recovery is VERY doable.
Make a plan to make a come back. Include training, nutrition, rest, and getting insight and wisdom from a sports doctor and other athletes in your field.
You might be interested in reading what I recently wrote on 10 Tips On Recovering From a Hard Run. Check it out by clicking here.
[divider]*Running Injury Stats Sources:
Mechelen, W. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(5), 1993.
van Gent, et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 41:469-480, 2007
Taunton, JE, et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36:95-101, 2002.
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