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Returning To the Gym Following An Injury

Joe Pietaro

Joe Pietaro

Joe Pietaro Contributer
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If it hurts, do not do it.

That can be the extent of this article and it would still hold water, but we will elaborate and be more specific, of course. But the bottom line is just that - stay away from exercises that cause you pain, and not the 'good' type, either. This becomes even more important when you factor in an injury - sustained either inside or outside the gym - and need to either take off days or adjust your workout to not aggravate it. The first thing that you should be concerned with is healing and not elongating your time away and/or needing to do what you may consider less of a workout because of the injury.

So let's say you hurt your shoulder, something all too common in those of us who have trained for any extended period of time. As a matter of fact, shoulders, elbows and knees are the culprits for most of us and only with experience comes knowing what is an injury or a long term issue that is leading to one. But that is a different topic; we'll focus on the injury situation here.

You're performing one of the basic compound deltoid movements (behind-the-neck seated barbell presses) and feel a little something strange in your left shoulder. You're not doing particularly heavy weight and amount that you can handle for a full set of 10-12 reps. You stretch it out and try to loosen it up before attempting the next set, but you still are feeling that pain and discomfort when lifting. It may be a good idea to either drop a little weight or go on to a different exercise, but we are stubborn creatures of habit and you do your third and final set, once again feeling the same pain.

You manage to get the rest of your shoulder workout done, even though you were not at your best; that old sports saying, "You have to play with pain sometimes," also holds truth in the gym. You get home and that shoulder still isn't feeling right. So you try to ice it and even later on that day, put a heating pad on it. Some relief, but even after a good night's sleep, that damn shoulder is still hurting you. You head to the gym and train a different body part, one that doesn't include the shoulders as even a secondary muscle on compound movements, So you feel pretty good, even though there's still some lingering tightness.

Fast forward to the next time that you are incorporating deltoids into a movement and there it goes again - that same pain. So now you have a decision to make and both choices suck. You can either continue to work out as best as you can or take some time off to rest it. Now, we're referring to the type of pain that is annoying, but not at the level where you have sustained a serious injury; that would be more obvious and in that case, get the hell out of the gym and make a doctor's appointment. But you eventually have to succumb to the paIn and do only lower body and cardio for a week. You've been icing and heating it, taken some anti-inflammatory over the counter medication and gave it enough rest. Now it's time to try it out and see how it feels.

Don't try and be a hero and pretend out doesn't hurt if it does. You already gave it some rest and you have to assess if the pain level is lower or not. If it is, then you should take another few days off in the same aforementioned manner. If it is the same or worse, then you should see a physician and find out if there is any structural damage or not. Ignoring it will only elongate it. You may find out it is something that you can deal with and not have to undergo surgery. Another discussion best suited for a trained medical professional.

But the bottom line is to listen to your body and not keep doing something that will cause you worse issues. Nipping it in the bud is a smarter way of training.
 

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