There is a common belief that once a person sustains a simple soft tissue injury, the best course of action is to cease physical activity and rest until the injury becomes less painful. We now know that continuing physical activity during the recovery process can have positive long term benefits both physically and psychosocially. Did you know that a person can lose 3.5% muscle mass and 9% strength if they are immobilised for 4 days?! So how do we maintain our fitness around an injury? We recommend continuing to exercise with modifications, which is what we call relative rest. Relative rest means staying active while not overexerting the injured part, allowing it to heal without losing strength/fitness. Examples of relative rest may be:
- Temporarily switching to less aggravating forms of exercise.
- Activity as normal but within an acceptable pain tolerance.
- Modifying load or stress of the activity:
- Reduce running distance
- Lift less weight
- Reduce range of motion
At Complete Health, we encourage our patients to move if they are experiencing pain; whether it be going for a short walk or by participating in a modified Clinical Exercise session in the clinic. When coming back from an injury, some level of pain or discomfort during exercise is to be expected. Pain and movement tolerance can vary largely between individuals, so management is on a case by case basis. The literature suggests that some degree of exercising into pain is beneficial in the short term compared to pain-free exercise. Moving through a tolerable amount of pain can be great for retraining normal movement patterns as well as reducing fear-avoidant behaviours.
“The brain-body eagerly welcomes sensory input from our joints when we move them, as it wants to know what is happening, in order to construct the best responses for you.” Prof. Lorimer Moseley (pain scientist).
Our bodies rely on movement for overall health (physical, mental and internal). The longer the complete rest period, the more intolerant the body will become to movement. This means that a person may be at a higher risk of injury or disability compared to someone who exercises regularly. Exercise should be tailored, graded and progressed at the appropriate level for the individual to meet their needs.
By Dr. Jena Chang (Osteopath)Leave a reply →