Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dealing with Muscle Injuries

I just re-started my gym workout after 1 whole week of being off and man it feels good – except I got to start slow, so that’s a little bummer. Reason for being off for one whole week– my trip to Sabah and also it’s been awhile since I let my body rest for a whole week. So the rest and break in between the workouts from time to time is actually a good thing.

But anyway, that is a different topic all by itself. What I want to talk about in this posting is how to deal with muslce injury, and as luck might have it, I pulled a muscle or tendon today. Just as I am getting back in the groove, I might have to take another break while this heals.

So the big question is, how do you deal with muscle injury. Does it mean that you have to stop your workout immediately? Not necessarily. First thing you need to do, is rate the severity of the pain. Of course there are many types and classifications for muscle injury, but for layman purposes I came up with my own simple scale. And this scale covers the most common injuries we are likely to face while working out.

1 – Only hurts when the injured part is bent or stretched in a certain position
2 – Continuous pain even when at rest, but not severe
3 – Severe and continuous pain which prevents you from performing your normal day to day activities.

What I have is a Level 1 pain… it only hurts when I bend my arm in a certain way and really squeeze it. It’s annoying, but I can get by. So here is what your need to do depending on the severity of the pain

Level 1
Usually I would advise people to stay away from working out for a couple of days till the pain subsides, but if you are as crazy as me, I know you are going to hit the gym anyway. What I would advice is, you can go to the gym, but avoid exercises that puts your body in the position that causes the pain. For example, I currently feel an annoying pain when I bend my arms all the way… so I will need to avoid any exercise that mimics this movement as well others which may cause the pain. Needless to say, you want to try every exercise with a light weight first to see if the pain returns. If it doesn’t, then gradually increase the weights to your full strength. If it does return, stop doing that exercise immeidately. Pain is a signal to tell you that something is wrong, so when the signal goes off, stop doing it immediately. Most people find pain a nuisance, but I see it as a way for my body to alert me that something is wrong.

Usually, this kind of pain will disappear after a day or two of not repeating movements that cause the pain. So you just need to be careful with how you move and what you do for a couple of days, and you should be scott free after that. However, if the pain is still present after a week, you will need to see a doctor and get it checked out. Also, if at any point, the pain becomes worse or permanent, you will need to rest for awhile and get your doctor’s advice. If when the pain comes and it is the kind that is very sharp and painful, please see your doctor as well.

Level 2
If you feel a continuous throb or pain after your workout, it is pretty serious and you may need to see a doctor immediately. By pain, I am not talking about the usual post workout muslce intensity or aches. This is a pain which you know something has gone wrong. The worse thing you can do for this is to pop pain killers without seeing your doctor, let the pain disappear and then workout normally as if nothing happened and then keep popping pain killers to not feel the pain. You are probably going to make the injury worse.

A lot of injuries become permanent because people continue stressing the injury till it reaches a point of no return. Hence early intervention and and rest can prevent the injury from becoming a permanent injury. So whenever you get a lingering pain, you need to see your doctor immediately. He or she is most probably going to advice to rest for a week or 2, give you some pain killers and the usual “we will see how it goes after that”. It’s probably the best thing you can do, so follow your doctor’s advice and you should be fine. For those super hardcore fitness enthusiasts, its better to miss 1 month of working out, than missing a lifetime of working out because of a permanent injury.

Level 3
If you are experiencing this kind of pain, what are you doing still reading this blog? You need to be admitted to a hospital.
OK on a serious note, if you do experience this, it means it is something very serious like a torn muscle or ligament, and this will need long term rest and recovery. One or 2 weeks rest ain’t going to cut it. More like a month or more of rest depending on how severe this is. This kind of pain rarely happens suddenly. Usually, people will have level 2 pain for a long time, ignored it and continued pushing on as usual before suddenly having level 3 pain. Of course there are very rare occasions when the wrong angle or too much weight can suddenly tear something and cause this pain immediately, but usually, it is a progression from level 2 pain.

So if you get this kind of pain, the first thing you need to do is run to a clinic. If the GP there thinks its serious, he will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. I hope nobody gets this kind of pain from working out, but if you do, please see your doctor immediately.

OK, this is just a simple guide on how you should deal with muscle injuries. Most of these pains usually happens to heavy lifters, so if you are lifting heavy weights, this will be a useful guide to you and not just the usual “run to your doctor” articles. Just as a precaution, whenever in doubt, please refer to your doctor. Every person’s body and injury is unique, so that’s why your doctor who sees you will be a better judge of what to do.

Have any of you experienced any muscle injuries before? I have numerous times, and this is how I have dealt with it, and so far, so good…. Still going strong.

As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


.ani said...

Coach ... I'm in Level 2/3 : but here I am typing a reply ... hmmm what gives!!

We live in hope Coach .. and cycling has not been regular - went into a I want to die mode ... but am back in the right frame of mind now ... with all the health alarms ringing - auntie NO MORE CHOICE - lose weight or die before I'm 50 (if I get that far) ...

Thanks again for a great piece :)

Rajan said...

Ani: is the cycling working out for you? ie no pains and aches in the knees? if it is, let me know.

Also, i am guessing you need to make some drastic changes to your diet to see results.

I think we should meet up again to discuss.

The Corporate Athlete said...

hi rajan. great piece dude!!
It's interesting how you categorised it into 3 different pain levels. One day, I 'cedok' your piece kay .. hehehhe ..

p/s - I normally subscribe my clients to Ellyptical Cycle (or better still, swim) as opposed to normal stationary bike for those with knee joint problems. Lesser impact on the joints.

.ani said...

Gotta ask ... what the price of these elliptical trainers I keep hearing about?

Since stationary bike bores me to death eheheh and then again there's the treadmill i have been considering buying (what with all the mega sales eheheh) but my knees is an issue and I read the elliptical trainer is both upper and lower body workout and low impact on aching knees ...

any suggestions??? auntie HAS to lose weight, got pilates going but my target is 2011 - slimmer toned me ahahah turning 40 in style la is the plan ...

Rajan said...

CA: No worries... info here is all for sharing and helping people. Just help to mention where you got the info from lah. :-)

Also thanks for the tips on those with knee problems. I am sure Ani will appeciate it.

Ani: Bikes can be boring, i know. my suggestion is to cycle while you watch your favourite show... don't stop till the show ends.

Elipticals can cost from RM 1,000 to about RM 2000 or more. Me and wifey are actually looking for an exercise bike, and was surprised that even simple ones are about RM 1,000. It is only for both upper and lower body if you have the arms that you can swing. so look out for one that has that.

If i find any cheap ones or second hand ones, i will let you know.

anfield devotee said...

Tips fer dealing with muscle injuries . . .?


Rajan said...

AD: hahahahaha..... that's a good one. I am presuming you are speaking from experience. hehehehee

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