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What movement or exercise can you do when you’re injured?

What movement or exercise can you do when you’re injured?

What movement or exercise can you do when you’re injured?

When a musculoskeletal injury occurs, – whether it be to your shoulder, back, ankle or surrounding area, our initial instinct is to stop moving and protect the underlying injured structures. This instinct often works in the initial stages of injury, however, an active and specific rehabilitation plan may actually be the best thing to do while the injury is healing. The “old” advice of rest may actually be worse for you and make your recovery longer and more painful!

Movement in most cases will help speed up the recovery process. Movement encourages blood flow and helps maintain fitness, mobility (obviously!) and strength levels. Encouraging blood flow around the body is an important way to move inflammation away from the injury and bring new blood carrying vital restorative components needed to heal the injury. Moving inflammatory molecules away from the injury could in turn decrease a person’s pain thus helping them to move creating a positive feedback loop.

Maintaining fitness and strength levels is vital while being injured especially if you are dealing with a long term injury. A severe ankle sprain may take 8-10 weeks to heal but bed resting for the whole period of time could lead to a large amount of muscle wasting. This would cause further problems on top of your existing ankle injury. Building back strength and stability of the ankle is even harder if muscles have started to waste away.

Therefore, keeping some sort activity up while injured is pivotal. This could mean gentle walking, swimming, or bike riding until you can get back to your usual sport or daily activities. It may also mean really localised ankle rehabilitation work that you can do in the comfort of your own home and in front of the TV or with some music on! Make it an enjoyable and easy experience so it is not a chore, but rather a form of relaxation.

If you play sport or attend gym, modifying training is another option for injured athletes and weekend warriors. For example a footballer with an ankle sprain would still be able practice hand balling drills. Or a basketball player with a broken finger can still complete agility and sprint training or one handed dribbling drills. An option for modified training can be an option depending on the injury you are dealing with. If you attend the gym, modify your weight training or your cardio work to manage your injury rather than avoiding the gym or your chosen sport altogether.

Another great strategy to aid recovery is stretching and strengthening areas away from the injured site. If we use the example of a sprained ankle, we could start stretching the hip on both sides to help improve the walking or gait cycle once the person starts walking again or even is walking with a limp. We could also start muscle activation and stabilising exercises of the hip to help give support to the ankle when engaging back into sport or daily activities. In addition, an ankle sprain won’t stop you from moving and strengthening your upper body which may stiffen up as a response to an ankle sprain. Therefore, you can modify your exercise to incorporate all form of movement and strength. This may seem a bit overwhelming, but your Osteopath, in conjunction with your trainer, if you have one, can develop the best plan for your recovery!  This may also include some hands on osteopathic treatment too.

Other strategies for recovery could be using a foam roller, spikey balls, anti-inflammatory creams and gels, compression bandages or braces, and heat and ice packs.

  • Foam rollers and spikey balls can help release tight muscles and mobilise stiff joints.
  • Anti-inflammatory creams and gels can be used at the injured site to help decrease inflammation and decrease pain.
  • Compression bandages and braces can help support joints and muscles and also decrease swelling by applying pressure on top of injured soft tissues.
  • And depending on the injury, a heat or ice pack can help with pain relief or swelling.

These are just some of things we recommend when you may be recovering from an injury. I would recommend booking an appointment with a local Osteopathic practitioner for specific advice on any injury you are currently dealing with.


Steve Resic, Osteopath, St Kilda Osteopathy

Categories: General Information