If you exercise, you will get injured. It’s unavoidable. I tell my patients that if they want to absolutely avoid any injuries during their leisure activities, they probably should take-up chess. Most other activities carry some risk. So if they are going to play any sports or exercise in any manner, they should expect some injury, at some time.
For many, the injuries will fortunately be rare and mild and their recovery will be quick. For others, they may have more frequent or severe injuries or they may just take longer to recover. How they will recover, depends on the nature and severity of the injury, their pre-injury conditioning and health, how they are treated (if at all) and how they deal with their recovery.
We have been taught by our mothers since we were very little that when we get sick we need to get in bed, rest and sip hot soup prepared with love. This works for the sniffles, but this level of inactivity is a bad idea when recovering from a sports or other activity related injury.
During our recovery, it is important that we remain safe and that we don’t perform activities that lead to further damage and injury. But that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. Recovery from a musculoskeletal problem is an active process. There are a whole slew of problems that can occur from minimal or no activity. Some of these are serious and some less so. Complete inactivity after an injury can lead to blood clots, unnecessary stiffness and weakness that can prolong the recovery, adverse effects on your cardiovascular fitness, a poorer sense of quality of life and even frank depression. Obviously all of these can adversely affect not only our function while recovering, but may impair our overall health status long after our orthopedic problem is “cured”.
Do I need to stop running?
So to answer that question “Do I need to stop running”, I say, never stop running. Well almost never :-). The point is that we do better if we stay in the game. The key is figuring out at what level we can safely participate. We need to monitor our progress (or regression) – incrementally adjusting our activity accordingly. Increasing our activities as we heal, decreasing them if things worsen. And we need to push ourselves to the upper limits that enable us to continue to heal, remain safe and progress.
Sometimes this takes creativity and a good sense of the healing process. Afterall, different injuries heal at different rates. Their healing is put at risk by different activities…and our different individual characteristics. For instance, at older ages, our recovery slows. So age as well as other personal factors impact how we heal…and therefore how long it takes us to recover.
With that said, the take home message is…Don’t stop running…For that matter, don’t stop moving. Just adjust your workouts, shorten them, reduce the intensity, switch to alternative exercise…Do less…but stay in the game…heal…recover…and then get back to your activities.
To learn more, watch the video below in which Dr. Luks and I discuss this issue. This is the latest installment of The Two Boneheads video series. If you have any further questions, please let us know.