Don't Play Through the Pain: Alternative Exercises for Injured People
Whether you're a weekend warrior or a fitness fanatic, you probably don't like being sidelined with injuries. Time away from your favorite sport or activity means missing something you enjoy and all its health benefits. But experts say you shouldn't ignore your injuries. Here's how you can keep exercising without worsening your injury.
Injuries Need to Heal
"I can't think of an injury you should play through," says Richard Cotton, exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. "Just about all injuries require recovery time."
Time is one thing most athletes don't want to give to an injury. But, Cotton says, patience is key to recovery.
"Coming back too quickly gets you into trouble. It can make an injury chronic." The best bet is to return to your sport only when you've been given clearance by your doctor, trainer, or physical therapist.
With most injuries, there are alternative activities that will allow you to rest the injured area while still getting exercise. In fact, you just might find a few new activities to love. Here are some examples of alternative exercises for specific injuries.
"And there's no reason why you can't do upper leg exercise like the leg curl or leg extension," says John Jay Wooldridge, a Reebok Master Trainer. Just make sure there's no stress on your ankle.
Knee injuries can be very serious, and trying to keep going through a knee injury could make it much worse. Talk to your doctor or trainer to find out if cycling or riding the recumbent bike (which takes the weight off your legs) will exacerbate your injury. If not, these might be good replacement activities. If your knee injury is more serious than that, Cotton recommends swimming with a pull buoy to support your legs. "It's an excellent aerobic workout," he says.
Trying to play through a pulled muscle or tendon is tempting, because once your muscles warm up, you don't feel the injury as much.
"In many cases, an athlete will feel a muscle injury more while at rest," Wooldridge says. Hamstring injuries are especially common, often caused by rapid deceleration or change of direction. If you pull a muscle, Wooldridge says, you need to let it rest and follow the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method.
One way to work up a sweat using only upper body muscles is to toss around a medicine ball with a partner for a while. Try it for 20 or 30 minutes just tossing it back and forth, not running around at all. "You'll get a great workout using your abs and shoulder muscles," Wooldridge says.
Players of racquet sports are familiar with elbow pain. If a case of
Hurting your shoulder can interfere with your ability to participate in a host of popular recreational sports. You don't want to serve, swim, swing, or throw with a shoulder injury. With particularly painful shoulder injuries, even the arm-swinging inherent to running can be too much to take.
"Avoid overhead movements and any arm position that causes pain," Cotton says. And make sure you get professional guidance before picking up a racquet or swimming again. Do as much lower-body
When You Can't Run
"Recent research shows that women on a stair-climbing program stayed in as good shape as women on a running program," Cotton explains. Stair climbers and elliptical trainers eliminate the repetitive pounding of running.
"Move as fast as you can between each station, and go through the whole circuit four or five times." Wooldridge recommends. "It will take almost an hour, and you'll get a great workout."
American College of Sports Medicine
National Strength and Conditioning Association
American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org .
Fit facts. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts .
National Strength and Conditioning Association website. Available at: http://www.nsca-lift.org .
Last reviewed May 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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