Why You Should Rest After an Injury

Want to know why you should rest after an injury?

This is a follow up to a post about healing from injuries I wrote earlier. Each structure/tissue in the body has a required healing time following an injury. This is something you shouldn’t ignore. And, you can’t talk or buy your way to faster recovery. Sometimes the best thing you can do is wait.
Kim Clijsters having to wait out a tournament due to a shoulder injury.
Annoying? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. So, why?? Well, think of it this way. Imagine you knocked your shin on the coffee table, and ended up with a large size hematoma (bruise). The bruise is swollen, painful and visible. Now imagine your toddler running full speed towards your shin arms open wide. Knowing the end result, you would probably catch him and move him away from your shin to avoid pain. In the following days you would avoid any contact with the bruise as much as possible, and slowly the bruise would decrease in size and then color would eventually fade away.
However, if you ever re-knocked your shin in the same place mid healing you know the pain, and swelling returns, and healing has to start over again.
The same is true for example, an ankle sprain, except you can not visibly see the “bruise” to your ligaments, tendons or bone. So every time you walk with pain or worse jog, you are delaying the healing process and putting yourself and risk for more injury. AKA you won’t be able to run, cross fit etc for even longer…
So how long do you have to wait??  Oh, if only it were so easy to predict.
This varies on the extent of the injury and which structures are involved, and a few other factors, but here are some estimated windows you are looking at:
Muscle/tendon: A few days to 8-12 weeks depending on severity.
Ligaments: 6 weeks – 6 months
Ligaments and Tendons go through three stages of healing: the Inflammatory phasewhich can last up to a week. Repair phase which can be up to three weeks. Lastly,  the Remodel phase which can continue up to a year with ligaments.
Now it is a balance during these phases. When I say rest I mean from your high intensity workouts such as Crossfit. However, gentle mobility and short walks around your house are good (unless it’s a fracture). You know if you over did activity or mobility if swelling and soreness return full force.

Bone fracture: 10-12 weeks of immobilization following slow return to weight bearing (if weight bearing joint). Then you will start of strengthening any muscles which may have atrophied (another 4-6 weeks) during the immobilization. Then you can hopefully slowly start to resume daily activities. Once you are able to start daily activities then you ease back into your workouts.
What you can do in the meantime?
  1. Feed your body good nutrition
  2.  Sleep to help the body repair
  3. Spend some down time with family and friends
  4. Read a good book, watch a movie
  5. If you have an injury in the upper extremity try a recumbent bike
  6. If you have an injury in the lower extremity you can perform light upper body strengthening while sitting if you absolutely have to
  7. Ice and elevate while reading about your injury, surround yourself with knowledge
  8. Read about how to keep your back healthy here.
  9. Call a family or friend you havn’t talked to in a while.
  10. Leave a comment below, or check out the new Facebook page where you can see some fun Instagram photos. Click “like” to follow there for more entertainment ;) .
What will happen if you ignore the pain? The injury will go on and on and on, or you will be at risk for potential re-injury. Or, you could jeopardize not being able to heal, and have to require surgery.

Posted by Dr. Alison Cupini


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