If you’re active and involved in sports, chances are you’ve also experienced some kind of injury. When the course of prescribed physical therapy is complete, many feel that they can pick back up where they left off. This most often leads to being re-injured or being side-lined yet again. What are some tips to keep in mind after physical therapy to prevent either of these from happening? This article will discuss what you can do on your own to ensure that you can get back into the game and stay there.
Just because your physical therapy program has ended, doesn’t mean you should stop the exercises you’ve been doing. Many times your physical therapist will give you a range of progressive exercises from acute to chronic stages of your injury. You can continue to perform some of these as daily exercises or as part of your warm-up. These are aimed at preventing any stiffness and to maintain mobility and function. Especially if you notice any pain from your injury returning, immediately think back to the basics of PT - rest, ice, compression, elevation - continue PT exercises, and remember to take things slowly. It will take time to build your body back up to pre-injury conditions, so be patient with yourself.
Your physical therapy regimen should have addressed any issues with muscle atrophy, but now you may decide to pay special attention to those muscle groups with new strength training exercises. Whatever your pre-injury workouts were, realize that there will be adjustments now due to your injury. Instead of viewing your injury as the enemy, treat it like a friend. Nurture those muscle groups and pay special attention to them during each workout. Some physical therapy offices provide post-rehab specialists that can provide exercises that focus on muscle re-education.
Any injury to the body causes an imbalance in the body. Immediately following an injury the body begins to compensate with other muscle groups to protect the part that’s injured. This leads to an imbalance in muscles and sometimes a loss of normal proprioception. Decreased proprioception is often evidenced with poor balance and posture. There are a variety of proprioception exercises intended to re-educate those areas of the body that have poor balance. For example after an ankle injury a common balance exercise involves standing on a balance board that moves unpredictably and you are forced to quickly react without thinking about it. Truthfully, proprioception should happen subconsciously, as the body and mind work simultaneously to keep you upright. Training exercises are performed and practiced consciously but eventually their benefits are seen unconsciously on the field or in sports when without even thinking your body reacts and can kick a ball and stay upright, etc.
An injury can cause a lack of confidence and creates a new fear, the fear of being re-injured. While it’s important to be realistic and careful, it’s also important to stay positive. Having the proper mental viewpoint of your injury and your future goals can help keep you motivated to keep moving forward. View your injury as if it were your side view mirrors. Keep it in mind, but don’t focus on it. Look ahead to where you want to be at physically and in the game. Taking the appropriate steps to condition your body, keep working toward the long term goals you have. With a positive attitude you will get there!
Proper nutrition affects performance levels and is necessary for strength and endurance. Focus on eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits that contain nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants that can build you up cell by cell. Lean proteins and complex carbs can provide the protein and energy you need to keep going during training sessions. Hydration is key; avoid sugary drinks or juices, and stick to water. Avoid processed or foods with added sugar. In addition to cleaning up your diet, give thought to your schedule and make sure rest has its place. Get to bed early to ensure at least 8 hours of undisturbed sleep. Don’t be over eager and over-train, rest should be an important part of any athlete’s training schedule.
There’s a lot you can do to get back into the game. Remember, take it slow and focus on your form. Stay positive and keep your goals in sight. An injury shouldn’t be forever, and with the proper motivation and training, you can keep it a thing of the past! If you need help with your post-rehab plan, the pros at Blue Hills Sports and Spine Rehabilitation are always available to help.