To Rest... Or Not to Rest?
How many times have you heard that you should be resting if you're injured?
In the past, and still to this day, this is a pretty "normal" thing to be told to do.
Here's the truth: there's a time and place for rest, but when healing an injury, rest usually isn't the answer.
Immediately after an injury, yes, rest is beneficial. This is the time when your body sends all of its helping cells to the injury site to kickstart the healing process. Your cells clean up the area and start the process of building the area back up.
After this happens, it's important to start LOADING the injured area or body part. What does this mean?
Loading can simply be described as exercising the area.
The timeframe after injury usually can dictate the type and intensity of loading or exercise. Early on, it's important to continue protecting the area, but start light exercise. Isometrics, or a static contraction of a muscle (think static holds), are really good during this time. You're able to get some of the muscles around the area working, but you're not moving through any ranges of motion just yet.
As time progresses and you increase loading intensity and force, utilizing unilateral (single arm or single leg) exercises, as well as working with a tempo (ex: 4 seconds on the way down, 3 seconds on the way up) are incredibly beneficial.
Working one arm or one leg at a time is important to maintain strength balance - or equal strength between both sides. When you get back to your normal activities at full capacity, you're going to want equal strength on both sides.
Let's talk squatting. Say your ~previously~ injured leg is MUCH weaker than your other leg. This will lead to imbalances and potential problems down the road. Your strong leg will be doing all the work, and the weaker leg will just be along for the ride.
Tempo, or time under tension, can be used to emphasize control with a movement, build strength, and even facilitate healing.
Throughout your rehab and training, listening to your body is paramount.
With any activity, do not let your pain exceed 3-4/10. During rehab, it's likely that you're not going to be completely pain-free all the time, and this is okay. We welcome some discomfort. Anything higher than a 4/10 or even sometimes 5/10 pain level may be pushing the envelope in terms of loading. If this happens, decrease weight, reps, or other variables to accommodate.
1) Early loading is key - begin rehab early after an injury, as it can shorten return to sport timeframe
2) Utilize unilateral exercises and tempo in your rehab
3) Listen to your body - keep pain levels at or below 3-4/10 pain