When It’s More than Sore Muscles: Staying Active with a Chronic Injury

If you suffer from a chronic injury, you may find it difficult to stay as active as you’d like. Constant pain, stiffness, and the fear of causing further injury may keep you away from exercise and the activities you love. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Unless your doctor tells you to not engage in any physical activity whatsoever, you can lead a full and active life even with a chronic, painful injury.
Sore Injury

But no one said it was going to be easy. Staying active with a chronic injury takes dedication, perseverance, and more than a little help from your doctor. Not only do you have to learn more about your injury and your limitations, but you also have to take steps to make your situation better, which may mean more treatment and medication.

You also have to learn to recognize that you have limits. No amount of will power can make it possible for you to do things that are physically impossible for you. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit on the bench. You can lead an active lifestyle provided that you do the following:

Assess Your Injury

What type of injury do you have? What do you know about it? If you don’t know much, take steps to learn all you can. Educate yourself about the causes, treatments, and prognosis of your particular injury. Will certain activities make your condition better? Will some activities make it worse?

If you know the answers to these questions, you will be better able to find activities that won’t exacerbate your condition. Without this knowledge, however, you could do something that could cause a more significant problem than you already have. And that’s the last thing you want to do.

Talk to Your Doctor

Make sure you’re ready for activity by talking to your doctor. There are certain times during any chronic injury when an activity or certain activities are not advised, such as during a flare-up of a repetitive-motion injury. During these times, the best way to heal and alleviate symptoms is to rest.

How to workout when injured?

As mentioned, activity may help with the symptoms of certain types of injuries, but you won’t know which is best unless you talk to your doctor. Your doctor can also tell you what activities you can engage in and which ones to avoid.

Staying in touch with your doctor can also keep you informed by providing you with emerging information about your condition as well as new treatment options. Your doctor may also be able to adjust your treatment plan in order to allow for a more active lifestyle.

Start Out Slow

After you talk to your doctor and get cleared for physical activity, you can begin an exercise regimen. However, you have to start out slow to avoid further injury. Do not immediately go for lifting weights or jogging even if you engaged in these activities before your injury. Instead, start out walking for 15 to 20 minutes per day and/or do some stretching exercises.

If you feel OK after several weeks of moderate activity, you can increase the intensity a bit. If you’re experiencing some pain and it’s not getting worse over time, continue with your current regimen. Do not increase the intensity, duration, or frequency unless you are pain-free and feel like you’re able to do more.

Know Your Limits

As always, you should know your limits. Pushing yourself beyond your limits could make your condition worse. Granted, you will have pain and discomfort trying to stay active with a chronic injury, so it can be difficult to tell where your limits actually are. Watch out for the following symptoms; they will tell you when you’re doing too much.

  • Excruciating pain
  • Worsening symptoms
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Weakness or instability
  • Weird popping noises followed by pain
  • Constant pain and swelling
  • Lingering nausea and fatigue

If you experience any of the above symptoms, stop exercising and make an appointment with your doctor. You may need to undergo some tests to see what’s going on. If you start to feel better, don’t start exercising again unless your doctor clears you. Many chronic injuries get worse gradually with continued activity, so you could cause further harm if you exercise before you’re ready.

If you experience a sudden onset of intense symptoms, go to the emergency room. Intense and worrisome symptoms may include sudden, excruciating pain with or without chest pain, intense headache or chest pain, loss of consciousness, sudden inability to move, or inability to place weight or pressure on any part of your body.

Adjust As Needed

Staying active with a chronic injury requires constant monitoring because your pain level and abilities can change from day to day and without warning. Assess your pain level and symptoms daily and reduce your activity as needed. If you experience bothersome symptoms that won’t go away, talk to your doctor.

returning to exercise after injury

Also, be sure to follow all of your doctor’s orders regarding the treatment of your injury. Don’t skip your medication or try a forbidden activity just because you feel better. You’re going to have ups and downs naturally. Feeling better is not necessarily a sign that your injury has been resolved nor is it a green light to take risks. If you feel like you can do more then you’re allowed to, talk to your doctor first. Only proceed after you get your doctor’s blessing.

Staying active with a chronic injury is challenging. However, you shouldn’t give up when the going gets rough. Exercise is vital for your health. In many cases, it will also improve your symptoms. The key to staying active is to find the balance that works for you. It may take some time and more than a few adjustments, but you will get there. A chronic injury won’t keep you on the couch if you don’t let it.