Why Rest Is Not Always The Best

 Oli Evans |   August 23, 2022

Is Rest Always Best When it Comes To Injuries?

Have you increased your frequency of exercise and now starting to experience some niggles and don’t know why?

Have you been told that you should just rest for a week and then re-start exercising again at the same level?

One of the most common questions we get asked at an Initial Assessment is: How Can I Still Exercise Around The Pain?

Well today, I want to clear it all up for you. So let’s dive in.

Rest May Seem Like A Good Idea…

For a lot of you who are active and enjoy keeping yourselves fit, having pain can be a huge frustration. Some of you might be training for a race or a big event and it’s halting your progress. For others it might be the only way you can relieve yourself from the daily stresses and now the injury is preventing you from achieving this relief.

There are a lot of opinions out there on what is best to do after experiencing an injury. Some people will advise rest, some people may advise continuing the level of activity until the pain eventually stops.

It may seem a good idea to give the area some ‘rest’ but actually all this will do is decrease your fitness and strength and then make it even harder to return to your activity once you’ve had the all clear!

This isn’t to say that rest and recovery is a bad thing. Sometimes when you’ve been training flat out, small niggles of pain are usually your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take some time to recover. When this is the case, you should listen to your body and take a few days to recharge. However prolonged periods of rest whilst rehabbing an injury can be detrimental to your progress.

Rest can hinder injury recovery

What You Really Want Is…

What we want in an ideal world is to still keep you strong and fit whilst we work on the areas that need working as well as thinking of alternative ways that are still enjoyable to keep you fit! This is the most optimal way of treating an injury and makes the return back to your chosen activity much smoother!

There are 2 things that are important to understand.

1) Load/activity – how much load goes into our body
2) Capacity – how much load our body can take

Often with an injury load exceeds the capacity of the muscle/tissue. This can be true in a trauma, for example when you fall on an outstretched hand and break your wrist. The load going through the arm is much greater than what the tissues will allow and hence the injury occurs.

Injury caused by exceeding load

The same applies in an overuse injury. When we increase our level of activity in sport, training or even in daily activities, we’re increasing the level of load going into our body. If this spikes too quickly then the muscles/tissues won’t have the capacity to manage this and hence an injury occurs.

What is slowing your recovery?

If there has been no spike in activity but you have been suffering from poor sleep, increase in stress, or a recent illness this will also reduce our capacity by hindering our ability to recover from each workout. This lowered capacity therefore makes us more prone to an injury. This can also be affected by things such as beliefs, past experiences, expectations and other things that are happening in our lives.

Don't let stress and anxiety slow your recovery

So What Can You Do About It?

So what can you do about it? Do you rest and allow our level of load to come down and then build back up?

In essence, yes. But we need to be careful how long you rest for and how soon you build yourself back up to normal training.

When you rest after an injury your activity/load tolerance will decrease which initially helps ease your symptoms but in doing so, your capacity will also decrease!

This is where the majority fall into the trap! Because your symptoms have settled you’ll want to get straight back to going back to normal training. However, if both your load tolerance and your capacity is much lower this is where your capacity can quickly be exceeded again by an even smaller amount of load meaning a flare up of the injury occurs!

So the best way to combat this is to try and keep your capacity nice and high by doing alternative pain free activities to keep you strong and fit whilst we address the problem that is causing that one tissue to become so overloaded! For example, if you go to the gym but a certain exercise is painful, find an alternative exercise that works the same muscle but is pain free!

Should you exercise with an injury?

Stay True To Your Treatment Plan!

This is also why it’s so important to stay true to the treatment plan. One of the main things we warn you at the initial assessment is there will be a time half way through your treatment where you’ll be eager to get out there and train again because you’ll be pain free!

Trust us, we wouldn’t tell you to not play if we didn’t think it was a good idea, it’s because we’ve seen it time and time again in our patients who go back too soon and then end up at square 1 again!

This is why it is so important to get in touch with a therapist so that we can put a rehab plan in place that will accommodate your lifestyle and goals so we can get you back doing the things you love in no time.

Keeping to your physio treatment plan

Need More Help?

If you want more direction and help on where to go next, if you’re suffering with pain but don’t know where to turn, we’d like to help.

At the ProSport clinic we’ve helped thousands of people in the Huddersfield and West Yorkshire region take control, get back to what they love doing, and live longer, happier, and healthier lives.

If you want to start your journey back to a pain-free life today please click here or call 01484 443173 to book your free 1-1 assessment today.

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