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5 Ways to Exercise With an Injury

Having aches and pains, or getting an injury eventually happens to all of us. It doesn’t matter if it comes from working out, a sport, an activity, or just from daily habits. We all will have to learn how to deal with them. When most people get injured they get very discouraged and discontinue their current workout regimen. This is a common roadblock but, believe me, it is one that can be busted through.

This has an effect on people’s confidence. They sometimes think that they can’t do anything physical until their injury clears up. Depending on the situation, being sedentary is the worst thing you can do.

DISCLAIMER: Always follow your doctor’s orders and check with your physician before you engage in any activity during and after an injury.

Cautiously, you need to continue to stay active in order to keep the rest of your body strong, resilient, and improve the recovery process when your injury heals up. Here are five common injuries, and how you can train around them. Make sure to check with your doctor before embarking on a fitness program if you have one of these injuries.

Injured Shoulder 

The shoulders seem to be involved in so many exercises that when someone has shoulder pain or injury, it is very discouraging to keep exercising. I don’t blame them. A bum shoulder can really bother you just in day-to-day events, mostly due to us sitting too much with poor posture. That is a sure sign that you need to keep your upper-back strong and shoulder complex mobile. I have had clients both stop working out and keep working out during a shoulder injury, and the clients who keep working on their core, upper-back, and leg strength recover much faster from the surgery or physical therapy than the ones who decide not to keep up their fitness.

The basic rule of thumb is if a certain movement hurts at a pain just don’t do it. The opposite of Nike’s slogan! Avoid push-ups, bench press, overhead pressing, and other upper-body pushing movements to salvage your shoulder. Focus on horizontal rowing such as cable rows, dumbbell rows, and TRX Strap rows to focus on keeping the upper-back strong, which will also help improve your posture. In addition, perform tons of core and lower-body work, and pick exercises that don’t bother your shoulder.

Knee Pain or Injury  

There are tons of variations of knee pain and injuries. Torn meniscus, patellar femoral syndrome (front knee pain), and torn ACL or MCL’s are just a few. There will be a large variance of what someone can do. If you are post-operation, your wait time before starting to workout will vary. Make sure to check with your doctor.

For a general rule, most stable upper-body and core exercises should be fine to do. I have worked with many clients that had ACL surgery, and once they are cleared to workout (about 12 weeks into therapy), they can do almost everything a person with healthy knees can do for the upper-body. Keeping up your glute and core strength is key. If you keep the hip and core area strong, it will improve the stability of your knee so much, that it will make the recovery process much smoother.

Exercises like hip lifts, planks, and upper-back exercises will help keep your posture in balance, and your hip and core muscles from becoming atrophied (your muscles basically shrinking and not working). Ovoid single leg-work on the injured knee (lunges, single leg squats), and focus on doing exercises with the non-injured leg.

Wrist Pain, Elbow Pain, Tennis Elbow and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

It is unbelievable to me how many people don’t work out while they have various wrist and elbow pain. Yes, you do need to rest to reduce the inflammation build up, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing your interval cardio workout and strengthing your lower-body.

Basically, just avoid any upper-body movements that bother that area. Go through your physical therapy (if prescribed). Then, if you really want to strengthen that area and prevent future pain and injury, start using kettlebells and ropes in your training.

Performing various kettlebell work and using the battling ropes is the best way to strengthen the surrounding muscles of your wrist and elbow. I love loaded carries to help improve overall grip strength. The stronger they get, the more resistant to injury they will become.

Keeping up your shoulder mobility can also help reduce some of the compensation that can lead to these types of nagging injuries. Get a Functional Movement Screen done monthly so you can monitor your shoulder mobility progress.

Low-Back Pain 

If you ask 10 people if they have ever had some type of low-back pain, 9 people will say yes. Our sedentary lifestyle of sitting too much has caused an epidemic of back pain. To avoid and help this issue, here is what you need to do.

First, buy a foam roller. The healthier your muscle tissue is, especially in the hip area, the less tension you will cause to the low back. Foam roll your IT bands, glutes, inner thighs, and hamstrings daily. Then, stretch your hip flexors, hip rotators (think glutes), and hamstrings dynamically.

I like the 90/90 position, active straight leg raises and hip flexor mobility exercises to improve your hip mobility. By improving your hip mobility you will help reduce some of the stress on the lumbar region.

You should also focus on strengthening your core in order to improve your lumbar stability and overall functionality of your core. Start simple with various planks, Bird Dogs, McGill Sit-ups, stir the pot and rollouts on the stability ball and suitcase carries. These exercises will help improve the stability of your core and get the proper muscles fired up.

Then there are the glutes. The core (abs) get a lot of attention but we also need to focus on glute activation and strength. I like mini-band walks, hip lifts, hip thrusters, frog pumps, and clam shells to fire up the glutes to keep them strong and active.
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Plantar Fasciitis

Having the bottoms of your feet hurt can be one of the most nagging injuries of all. With every step that you feel pain, it is a reminder that something is wrong.

Poor footwear is the main issue here. We put ourselves in such stable shoes that our foot muscles don’t need to work as hard, causing them to become weak and tight. We also don’t do enough exercise for our feet. Having minimalist shoes, and performing single leg exercises and balance work with help improve your proprioception and strength of your feet.

Before you go barefoot or go out and buy minimalist shoes, visit a good shoe store or a foot doc. This way you can see what shoe best fits your current needs, get your foot stronger, and then progress to a shoe that has less support.


Being Injured Doesn’t Mean Be Inactive 

While all situations will be different there is a way to work around nagging injuries. You first must avoid movements that hurt that current injury.  Then, find movements that do not hurt and improve other areas of the body to aid in overall recovery and fitness. Work with a physical therapist, physician, and qualified fitness trainer to find what best fits your individual needs. Never stop moving!

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