Should I workout if I’m injured?

It seems most healthcare providers default to saying no – WHY???

We get this question a lot: Should I workout if I’m injured? The short answer is “It depends,” but you know we won’t let you get away with just the short answer. Let’s break it down a bit with a little real-world experience from Trainer Brian. 

Recently, Brian was on a snowboarding trip and overestimated his shredding abilities. After a short warm-up, feeling much younger and experienced, he took some chances and ended up flying in the air with his snowboard overhead with his arms spread Superman-style before hitting the snow hard… ribs first. (Side note: when jumping off a boat into the water, or when flying through the air on a snowy mountain, tuck your arms in.)  

After wrapping up his trip, still in quite a lot of pain, Brian saw a doctor. Here’s the deal – you should ALWAYS check with your healthcare provider when you have an injury (you know we’re talking injury, not owie, right?) before continuing regular activity. Upon getting checked, turns out Brian had a few fractured ribs. When he asked about activity, Doc started with his textbook answer “no activity for 2 weeks, and then only light exercise for the next 6.” We know doctors will typically respond conservatively in their treatment of injuries, but we also know that blood flow and exercise can contribute to faster healing, so you should also give yourself the freedom to ask questions. When your provider tells you no activity, and your injury is localized, don’t just accept that canned answer, but rather ask questions to make sure that’s the right answer for you. Questions like: 

  • What are the risks if I do exercise? If the injury is such that elevated blood pressure or heart rate could lead to blindness, then by all means, do not exercise.  But in many cases, the risk of further injury is very low if you’re doing the right exercises. 
  • What kinds of things CAN I do that won’t cause further harm? In this case, it’s helpful to share your normal fitness routine with your provider and ask them for suggestions for modification. For someone with a broken shoulder, you may have to avoid overhead weights and push-ups, but you sure can still do those squats and lunges as well.
  • What are the things I should watch out for? In Brian’s case, his doctor modified his response to “don’t do things that hurt” (and don’t push through the pain). For some injuries, a straight-up do this/don’t do that approach may not work. For Brian, he has found that standard in the saddle Spinning is ok, but standing, especially running hard standing, is painful. 

Once you’ve gotten modified clearance from your healthcare provider for some level of exercise, what else should you think about?

  • Know the difference between ache and pain. Ache is that feeling you get the day after a Spin Sculpt class that ended with a bicep burnout. That “hurts so good” kinda feeling. Pain is not. Pain is that burning sensation that feels wrong. It can throb, swell, and feel not at all “right”. Ache=good. Pain=bad.
  • Know your body. Listen to what your body is telling you. Not every day of your rehab will be the same. Some days it may feel ok for Brian to do a little standing on the bike, maybe at low speed/higher gear, other days it may be a complete non-starter. Be aware of your body’s signals and adjust accordingly.
  • Talk to your trainer. If you’re working out in-studio, let your trainer know about your injury and what restrictions you may have. They will be able to assist you with modifications that will still get you the same result in a different way.  

You hear what we’re saying here? This isn’t saying skip the doctor and treatment, but we are suggesting you have an active role to play in your healing, and in many cases that will allow you to stay active. 

What about you? Have you had an injury and your healthcare provider said “no” to activity? Or “yes but…”? Let us know how it worked out for you.

Are you a healthcare provider? What do you say? Agree or disagree with us? Any other words of wisdom?

For those body-sculpting, fat-torching workouts where we show you the right way to exercise so you won’t get injured, check out Studio SWEAT and Studio SWEAT onDemand!

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2 Comments
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Hi all – So glad to see this video up. I broke my ankle snowboarding 3 yrs ago. It was tough not moving for so long but I did have the go-ahead to do floor work, up front, which I did daily. Clipping into the bike once I was walking on the boot with 1 crutch was encouraged as it keeps the range of motion limited (vs. outdoor bike, walking on ice, swimming). I must admit, that being on crutches for 6 weeks was great for my abs and arms; I was ripped! Now, I have a cranky i.t. band on my right, and stiff left shoulder from another snowboarding slip; if you don’t fall snowboarding, you’re not pushing it! How do I w/out with 2 “corners” down? Heat on the shoulder, ice on the i.t. band, lots of yoga and cardio only on days that support it. It sucks being injured but the TRX and the bike are perfect aids in recovery. I believe my dr and physios have given good advice; do what you can w/out aggravating anything. Good luck to the injured Komrades around the globe. Nicki from Canada

Brian/Cat, I broke a few ribs after a fall too, so I feel your pain. Literally. I also had a concussion and broken jaw among other things, so I was out of commission for awhile. But I got back in the swing of things way before the doc gave me clearance. And I think it actually helped me heal faster. The “do things that don’t hurt” advice makes sense. That’s what I did. So far so good. Thanks for the info!