Injury Rehabilitation

(Originally posted on The Reg Park The Legend Forum)

Another cover shot for RegI’d thought this a worthy topic to post as I have personally struggled with many injuries in the past, and I am sure that everybody out there who are serious about lifting weights have had first-hand injury experience as well.

First off I think injuries should be classified in 2 major groups: 1. Injuries that prevent you from training, or serious injuries 2. Injuries that allow you to carry on training, albeit in a limited capacity.
The first group of injuries include all the bigger injuries, like torn ligaments, broken bones, etc. These should most definitely be checked out by a health care professional and a recovery path must be set on which is medically correct. I will not comment much on these as they are extremely varied, but do make sure you have a trusted health care professional to guide you through the process.
The second group of injuries is a lot harder to classify, because most of the time you are not entirely sure if that nagging feeling in your muscle is serious, or if it will go away with the next rep or set. One major point to stress here is to learn to listen to your body. It does come with time, but it inevitably is the best source of information at our disposal. If your body tells you to stop, then stop immediately, do not aggravate the injury by finishing the set or pumping out another rep to see if the pain will go away, you are only prolonging your rehabilitation period.
My discussion will now focus more on the aggravated muscle injury that we all
get sooner or later.
The first thing to stress is the importance of heat when it comes to injury rehabilitation. Always wear warm clothing when you train. Another good practice is to take a pair of wool socks, cut the toe off, and sleep with the wool sock over the injured muscle. This will ensure that the muscle is kept warm at all times and will increase the healing time.
Aggravated muscles also respond very well to massaging the affected area. Massaging these muscles are usually accompanied by some pain sensations as the inflammation in the muscle causes the area to be very sensitive and tender, but the massaging helps to break down the inflammation and improve the blood circulation to the injured muscle, thereby getting all the required oxygen, minerals and nutrients to the muscle that it needs to recover.
One thing that initially shocked me with Reg’s advice versus what I always have been taught by doctors is that you should actually train the specific muscle, as opposed to taking 2 – 3 weeks off and taking a lot of anti inflammatory medicine as instructed by most doctors. Considering that you need to get maximum blood flow to the area it does make sense that you should exercise the muscle as exercise increases the blood flow to the area, but obviously not with the normal poundages that you will usually use.
Another very important point to stress here is that there is significant difference in the amount of stress placed on the tendons, joints and muscles when using dumbbells or barbells as opposed to cable machines. With this in mind I have personally resorted to using cable machines only when I have recovering injuries.
Considering that blood circulation is our primary goal, it would therefore make sense that one should significantly drop the poundages, and up the repetitions. The poundages to use will obviously depend on the nature of the injury, but you are generally speaking looking at anything from 20 – 50% of your normal poundages. Repetitions should be no less than 15, with a very slow action and lots of focus on breathing.
Sticking to cable work and 15 reptition sets I have managed to speed up the recovery process on many injuries, although there have been some injuries that I have not been able to heal this way at all, but this mechanism was used once I got to train these injured areas again once they have recovered enough to start the rehabilitation process. Another interesting thing I have noticed is that you can generally heal a muscle using the same exercise you did when you caused the injury, e.g. if you strained a tricep doing tricep pushdowns, then you can revert to high rep cable pushdowns as you can be ensured that it will hit the target area.
I would like to reiterate that I am not a trained or qualified doctor, and that the above advice is what I have experienced from my own injuries and from what Reg has taught me. I can not guarantee that this will work for you, as you are ultimately responsible to ensure that you get back into gym ASAP and that you need to diagnose your injuries correctly.
The concept of maximising blood circulation is proven to help though, and I am sure there are other ways to achieve the same effect, and I am sure that there are a myriad of personal experiences out there when it comes to injury rehab, which I would really like to hear about, as it should be beneficial to all at the end of the day. Please also let me know if you find this advice useful and if it has worked for you, or if you have any questions please do not hesitate to mail me and ask.

Alwyn Van Niekerk ‘ All rights reserved 2006