How to manage pain and stay injury-free

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It's so annoying to be injured. It stops you from doing what you want to do and brings a lot of discomfort with it. That niggling pain that bothers you every time you exercise, or the discomfort you have when sitting at your desk for hours on end. A lot of us will try to ignore the pain, hoping that it will go away with time or rest. Sometimes this works. You listened to your body telling you to take some time out to recover and HOORAY, you're back in the game. But sometimes this approach just won't kick it.

Understanding why you feel pain is the most important thing to do if you want to get rid of it effectively. One thing that's important to know is that PAINFUL doesn't necessarily mean HARMFUL. This doesn't mean to say that you should keep pushing yourself through the pain hoping it will just go away. What it means is that there may not be anything structurally damaged, but there is something happening biomechanically that your body just does not like. Injury can occur when there is altered stress on the body's tissues. The pain you feel in the body is your brain's way of telling you that something isn't right, like an early warning system.

How can we overcome pain? Rehabilitation is usually multi-faceted but to put it simply; we need to get the stiff bits moving and the bendy bits more stable.

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The thoracic spine is just one part of the body that we frequently see as being 'stiff' - this is likely to be due to the modern day lifestyle of sitting too much and spending too much time in poor postures. Doing regular thoracic mobility exercises and foam rolling the upper back will help to increase range and free your upper back up so that the lower back doesn't have to do all the work.

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Hips and ankles are two other common 'stiff bits', below are a few ideas of how to get them moving.

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Increasing stability and control in the relatively 'bendy' bits is equally important. This may involve increasing core and gluteal activation, strength and endurance of the deep postural muscles in order to create a strong and stable foundation from which to move. Combining the two approaches is a recipe for success, as long as you do your homework.

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This is just a little snapshot into what your rehabilitation may involve. So if you've got a niggling pain that just won't go away, or you think you could get a little more out of your training if only you could move a little better, book in a session with one of our physiotherapists for a full body check-up.  

For now though, consider these three steps to help you stay injury-free:

1. Progress gradually

Don’t ramp up your training too quickly, it’s just not worth it. Our bodies take time to change and adapt so be consistent and avoid loading spikes. For example, if you've had a week of rest from exercise, don’t expect to do more than you previously did, as large fluctuations increase the load on our joints and soft tissues. Follow the 10 percent rule: add mileage OR intensity by 10 percent or less a week, and do not increase both at the same time. Monitor yourself with a training App to show what you have done each week. Also remember overload can be brought about by a combination of lifestyle and training. If you have been overloaded at work, this will affect your training too.

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2. Recover well

Listen to your body. It needs time to recover, both mentally and physically. The micro trauma that occurs to the muscles and tendons stimulates further healing and growth, and this can only happen if they’re given a chance to rest and recover. If you start to feel a niggling pain, give yourself time to recover. Do not be afraid to adapt your training schedule to your needs. You won't lose fitness from taking one day off. Ensure your training programme includes recovery sessions - this can be swimming, pilates, yoga, or foam rolling sessions.

3. Strength and conditioning

We all have areas of weaknesses. An important component of any training plan is to make sure we have good flexibility, core stability, and strength. A dynamic strength and conditioning programme will target specific areas to help stabilise joints, promote postural balance, and improve muscle performance and efficiency. It helps the body tissues to become used to higher levels of loading, enabling them to deal with the increased demands of training and competing, therefore minimising the risk of injury. In essence - get the stiff bits moving and control the bendy bits!

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When you have an injury that just won't seem to go away, see a physiotherapist who can assess different predisposing factors such as your biomechanics, alignment, muscle strength, muscle length, and motion control. Get this – often the source of your pain may not be where you feel it. At UFIT Clinic we don't just prod and poke the bit that hurts in the hope that the pain will go away. Our physiotherapists are highly skilled in assessing body biomechanics in order to fully understand how your body moves and why certain activities or postures are causing you pain. Book an assessment with us to find out more!


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucy Warren is a Physiotherapist and Pilates specialist from the UK. She has a first-class honours degree in Physiotherapy from Cardiff University, and is also an APPI-trained matwork instructor. Lucy has extensive sports experience with professional and semi-professional teams and athletes, having provided pitch-side physiotherapy for multiple elite sport teams in the UK. She has also worked for the British Army for two years, assessing and treating infantry soldiers and helping them to rehabilitate to peak fitness. 

Lucy taught matwork Pilates for several years before making the transition across to Reformer Pilates. Lucy loves using the Reformer and other Pilates equipment with her clients in order to achieve their specific rehabilitation goals. She believes that it is an incredibly versatile tool which can lead to daily life improvements like better posture and more efficient movement, as well as relief from pain associated with physical imbalances.

In her own time Lucy is a keen netballer, skier, and loves to travel to new places.