Staying Strong After Rehab
When many of us think of rehab, we think of surgery or a debilitating injury. While this is sometimes the case, the vast majority of people seeking out physical therapy tend to be dealing with much less severe sprains and strains. These are the kinds of injuries that can happen by simply moving the wrong way too quickly or performing an action that your body is not used to. Even the vast majority of back injuries that make you feel like you can’t get up out of bed are simply muscle strains that will recover quickly and can be avoided in the future with better mechanics, posture, and improved core strength.
Recovering from injury
Many good physical therapists will give home exercise programs to their patients to help them in their recovery so that they’re working on strengthening the right muscles in order to help prevent future injury. While treatment will frequently involve manual therapy techniques like massage, cupping, or graston, it always progresses to be more exercise based by the end of the treatment. There’s a reason for this! Your physical therapist wants you to not only get better, but stay better!
Rebuild the chain
I made my last point to highlight the importance of strength in the rehab process. Many injuries can be easily prevented by maintaining enough strength in the right areas. Determining the right areas is something that will generally be identified by your therapist during your rehab, and at the very least you should continue to do your home exercise program after you finish physical therapy to prevent a recurring injury. If you want to do one better though and try to prevent other injuries going forward, you should look at rebuilding the entire chain. What does that mean exactly? Your body is powered by a chain of muscles running from the ground up and they’re all connected. To bullet-proof your body, the best thing that you can do is build the entire chain.
The appropriate exercise selection is different for every person, but your physical therapist should be able to point you in the right direction. An even better option is to find a trainer who will consult WITH your physical therapist to give you the best of both worlds. This way you not only have your therapist helping with program design, but also have someone keeping a keen eye on your form while you’re exercising. When done properly, exercises that train your body from the ground up like deadlifts and lunges can be a great way to build the requisite strength to help keep you moving free of pain.
Yes, deadlifts! Any exercise is safe provided that it is done properly with an appropriate weight and any modifications necessary to address physical limitations. The video below shows some common variations of the deadlift that can be used to work through mobility and injury restrictions. Exercises like deadlifts, squats and lunges all help strengthen movement patterns that we use every day to pick up our kids, stand up from our chair, and walk up a flight of stairs. Core training exercises help us to engage our abs and obliques to protect and support our spine, one of the most oft injured areas of the body. We can utilize upper body exercises help to stabilize and protect our shoulders from injuries that occur when lifting things overhead, doing yard work, or carrying heavy objects.
So then working out is the key to not getting injured?
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Provided that you have a guided and well thought out training program, and a good set of eyes watching your form, working out and staying active is the key to staying injury free. Your workouts should help you to improve your strength, your mobility, and your flexibility to keep you feeling your best. While nothing is fool proof, you’ll have a much better long-term outlook if you put the effort forward to train properly and take care of your body than you will if you just leave it to chance.
Steve Zarriello is a Certified Strength and Conditoning Specialist, and the owner of Olympia Fitness and Performance, located in Cranston, RI. He has been training clients of all different ages, abilities and backgrounds to help them reach their specific goals for almost 15 years. His primary focus is on working with golfers to help improve their ability to play the game and keep them pain free.