One of the hardest things that you struggle with after getting injured is the fact that you can't do everything you used to do...
Maybe you hurt your leg and you aren't able to take long walks with your dog. Maybe you have a bad back and you can't work in the garden the way you normally would. Perhaps a shoulder injury is keeping you from a group exercise class that you typically enjoy.
Assuming that your injury is getting better or you have looked into getting help with your injury and you will soon be on the mend, the first question that usually comes up is...
"When can I get back to doing things that I was able to do before?"
The answer, of course, is... it depends. It can depend on the type, severity and timeline of your injury. This is something you will need to ask your healthcare provider about as you progress.
There are, however, some basic guidelines that I believe people should follow when getting back into their favourite activities after being injured.
1) Get Permission To Move
One of the main roadblocks that people run into on the road to recovery following an injury is that they are afraid to use the injured body part. It can be hard to trust a sore knee that has been giving out on you for months whenever you go for a long walk. It makes sense to protect something that has been injured...to a point. Once you begin to heal, it is important to ask your healthcare team if it is appropriate to start moving and using the sore muscle or joint. Often I'll tell my patients to get moving earlier than they expected!
2) Start Where You're At
I know you'd love to jump right back into doing the same level of activity you were doing before getting injured in the first place. The problem with that is, when you've had some time off, your muscles and joints aren't as well trained to keep up with that same old level of activity. Running is a good example of this one. Many of my patients who are runners are quite competitive and it can be difficult to resist the temptation to go out and try to run as fast and as far as they would have before getting hurt. This typically leads to more discomfort and frustration. It's better to pick a smaller, attainable goal and build from there.
3) Find Suitable Substitutes
Often there are other similar activities that can be used to help get you started when trying to get ready to jump back into an old activity. A great example of this is swimming or activities in the water. If you are anxious to get back to an exercise class, for example, an aqua-fit class can be a very good substitute. The water makes for less impact on your body but can also offer great resistance for building strength.
4) Ramp It Up Slowly
Our bodies rarely heal at the speed we would like. And as the speed of our daily lives seems to be ever increasing, it can feel like forever when we're trying to recover from an injury. It is important to realize that most injuries take weeks to months to fully heal and pushing your activity level up too quickly can lead to further injury and frustration. Make sure that you have a reasonable plan in place for increasing your level of activity; one that matches your level of recovery at that time.
5) Expect Setbacks
It's easy to get overexcited and do a bit too much when you start feeling better. If you've had back pain for months and suddenly feel 50% better, it can be tempting to do some of that heavy lifting you've been putting off. The problem is, this usually leads to increased pain and stiffness and can leave you feeling frustrated. The good news is that typically these setbacks are short lived. If you expect these little hiccups along the way, it can be easier to deal with them when they come up.
6) Be Consistent With Activity
When getting back into a move active lifestyle, just try to be consistent with some type of activity. Every little bit of movement helps to bring you a little bit closer to your goal. Move often throughout your day and move daily. It adds up!