Injury rehab not working? Here are 5 dos and don’ts that will accelerate your injury rehab progress.
1) Stop stretching. There is no evidence to suggest that stretching reduces injury risk, enhances recovery or improves performance. It will increase range of motion but this seems largely due to the fact that you learn to tolerate it rather than there being any actual change in the length of the muscle / tendon unit. In addition and perhaps most importantly, every study I have read demonstrates that passively lengthened muscle tissue loses it’s ability to produce force. Put simply, stretching makes you weaker.
2) Stop foam rolling. Evidence on the value of foam rolling is lacking despite it’s widespread use in rehab. It has been shown to reduce subjects symptoms but also to interfere with a muscle’s ability to contract effectively. In my experience there is very little to gain from crushing muscle tissue between bone and solid foam. If you’ve been doing this for some time but still find yourself in pain then stop.
3) Respect your active range of motion. In terms of recovering from injury this is huge. Don’t let an external force (either a therapist, gravity, or a weight machine) take you into a position you couldn’t get to under your own steam. Doing so will only make you weaker.
Let me use this example to explain; I was helping a pro golfer rehab from surgery to a damaged medial meniscus. He had been told to regain full flexion and extension to the injured knee by sitting in a deep squat position and then lying prone on a massage table with an ankle weight attached to pull his knee into extension. 3 months of this and his knee still felt unstable with deficits in range of motion compared to the uninjured side. Just one Muscle Activation Techniques session to address the muscular system deficits restored range of motion to almost that of his other knee.
If you have no muscular control of a range then you are relying on joint structures for stability. This is always a bad idea. Work on getting the muscular system to contract better in order to improve both range of motion and stability.
4) Isolate your weaknesses. You have somewhere in the region of 650 muscles. That means there is a huge amount of variability in how you move. It also means your central nervous system (CNS) is a master of compensation. If you want to effectively rehab from injury you have to target weak tissue in the most specific way possible otherwise your CNS will simply move around it. Isolate first then integrate into multi joint movements.
5) Don’t worry, be happy. It sounds like a frivolous thing to say when you’re in pain and unable to participate in your favourite activities, or perhaps live your chosen life. There is however, plenty of evidence to suggest the way you view this test will greatly influence it’s outcome. See this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your body and you’ll be on your way. Try reading this for inspiration if you’re struggling to find perspective.