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Should You Exercise With an Injury?

Working Around Your Injury

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Updated April 22, 2010

Staying Active

Whether your injury is minor (muscle strain) or major (torn ligament), you're not doomed to weeks of riding the couch and watching television. The decision to continue exercising is up to you and your doctor and only requires a little planning and a lot of common sense.

When it comes to exercise- and sports-related injuries, your first step is always to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Exercising with chronic pain is a recipe for disaster and may turn a temporary problem into a permanent one. Once you visit your doctor, talk to him or her about how to work around your injury. Below are some ideas to put to your doctor so you won't lose all the strength gains you've worked so hard for.

1. Don't do any activity involving your injured body part.

If you have a knee or foot injury you may not be able to run or ride your bike, but there's no reason you can't continue exercising your upper body. Your focus should be on modifying your workout so that you perform the exercises while seated or laying down so as not to put pressure on the injured joint or muscle. If you have an upper body injury, such as your shoulder or elbow, why not concentrate on lower body exercises? You can modify by doing exercises that don't involve holding weights in your hands or on your shoulders, and simply stick with machines that don't involve your upper body. Ask your doctor about continuing a resistance program that avoids further injury.

2. If it Hurts, Don't Do it

This seems simple but, if you're anything like me, you tend to exercise even when your body is telling you to stop. Even if you're following an exercise plan recommended by your doctor, if you feel any pain in the joints or anywhere else, stop. You may be able to move on to a different exercise that doesn't hurt, or you may have to stop altogether. Either way, learning to listen to your body is key to staying injury- and pain-free.

3. Follow Your Doctor's Advice

If you're determined to exercise, ask your doctor for a list of activities you can do to stay active without injuring yourself further. He or she may be able to recommend a physical therapist to help you determine what exercises you can do to both heal your injury and strengthen the rest of your body.

4. Prevention of Injuries

Obviously, prevention is the best choice when it comes to injuries. Once you experience the pain of an injury, you might want to educate yourself on ways to avoid them in the future. One simple way is to maintain flexibility and balance. Tight muscles can cause imbalances in your body that could lead to injuries. For example, if your quadriceps (front of the leg) are stronger than your hamstrings (back of the leg), you risk a strain or even a rupture of your hamstrings. About's Walking Guide gives some great tips in her article about Stretching and Flexibility Drills. Another way to prevent injuries is to avoid overtraining. When your muscles are tired, they "do a poor job of protecting their associated connective tissues, increasing the risk of damage to bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments." (Sports Coach) To fortify yourself even more against injuries, make sure you incorporate regular weight training into your weekly routine. Strengthening ALL of your muscle groups will reduce any muscle imbalances that may cause other muscles of your body to overcompensate for that weakness.

Next page Recognizing Major Injuries

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