Getting hurt is inevitable. And the risk of getting hurt increases with the regular participation of exercise. If you’ve been lifting weights, running, crossfitting, or some other form of exercise for at least a year or two, then you’ve probably experienced some form of “injury”. There are ongoing debates that explore the challenges surrounding how to best define what an injury actually is, but for the sake of this article I am going to keep it simple – an “injury” is an experience where you feel acute physical pain that results in the inability to perform your regular training or exercise regimen as intended for multiple training bouts.
It should be noted that, for most people, the risk of injury inherent to an active lifestyle does not outweigh the more potentially serious risks of a sedentary lifestyle. With this in mind, a regular exercise program should be recommended to everyone able and willing. The risk is worth it.
My most recent injury, as defined previous, was on Boxing Day this past year when I embarrassingly stumbled headfirst into the board at our annual family hockey shindig. I was without shoulder pads and a helmet so my head and left shoulder took the brunt of the impact. The immediate pain was pretty intoxicating, it felt eerily similar to my highschool rugby days where I would regularly sublux(partial dislocation) one of my shoulders during a game and have to wait a few minutes until the pain dissipated. The difference this time is the pain never dissipated, it remained at around a 7 out of 10 for about 24 hours.
Since my training routine is very important to me this had me pretty worried. My training up to this point was going very well which added to the frustration(e.g. Added 50 lbs to my squat, 25 lbs to my bench, and 30 lbs to my deadlift in 7 weeks). I tend to be a drama queen with moderate neurotic tendencies so as a result I am a prime candidate for “catastrophizing” my pain experience. “Catastrophizing” is informally defined as assuming the worst case scenario and excessively ruminating over it. Catastrophizing is a massively understated obstacle when it comes to understanding and managing the pain experience. Thankfully, I have been reading and learning lots about pain and the brain so although I was adequately armed to deal with this injury, I was certainly tested.
I am going to outline the timeline of my “injury” and the corresponding thoughts, emotions and challenges I was experiencing at the time throughout healing. I will also explain in detail the hows and whys for my training modifications throughout the process.
Day 1: Injury occurred. Later diagnosed as a mild AC Joint sprain, healing time 4-6 weeks.
- Pain level: 7/10.
- Mental Attitude: Extremely worried this could linger for multiple months, slightly depressed that my regular training has been derailed, especially when it was going so well. Staying aware of my tendency to freak out, so I work on not focusing on the pain and telling myself it’ll heal soon and I’ll be fine.
- Current Capabilities: Can’t raise left arm above my head, can’t hold a bar on my back, can’t carry a bar, can’t do a pushup, can perform bicep curls on machine, can perform tricep pressdowns on machine.
- Training Modifications: No bench, no squat, no deadlift. Leg focused block with leg press, smith machine lunges, quad extensions, ham curls, and bicep/tricep.
- Pain Level: 4.5/10.
- Mental Attitude: Less worried upon learning it was a mild sprain that would likely heal well within 6 weeks. Working on remaining patient, not rushing anything, and staying focused on what I currently am able to do.
- Current Capabilities: Can’t put on shirt easily, can raise arm above head but hurts at high point, can hold bar on my back, can carry bar for deadlifts, can bench only partial ROM.
- Training Modifications: Introduced 2 ct pause squat, barbell RDL, deadlift, and high pin bench staying several reps away from failure.
- Pain Level: 2.5/10
- Mental Attitude: Significant decrease in pain sensation had a positive effect, staying patient focused on the process.
- Current Capabilities: Putting shirt on still slow, can raise arm above head without pain, can press the barbell overhead without pain.
- Training Modifications: Introduced barbell press for 2 sets and multiple reps away from failure. Reduced height on pin bench, started deadlifting 2x/week, started squatting 3x/week.
- Pain Level: 1.5/10
- Mental Attitude: Training is almost back to normal, feeling really good about the healing so far.
- Current Capabilities: Putting shirt on much easier, bench feeling more stable, press feeling more stable.
- Training Modifications: Adding sets and weight to the press, reducing height on pin bench when possible, introduce 2 second pause bench in addition to pin bench.
- Pain Level: 0/10
- Mental Attitude: Back to full strength, happy to be back to regular training.
- Current Capabilities: Full capabilities with either non-existent or tolerable pain during daily activities and all the barbell movements.
- Training Modifications: Introduced regular bench in substitution for pin bench. Carried on as normal.
I learned a lot throughout this extremely normal and trivial experience that felt like the end of the world. To be honest, most people have experienced much longer and more painful injuries – looking back, this wasn’t worth worrying about at all. I am grateful for the opportunity to put what I had learned about pain management and psychology into practice. This will happen again at some point and it could very possibly be worse, but I will be ready to deal with it when it comes.
If you are experiencing pain or need an intelligent plan for getting you back to your regular daily activities then consider contacting our Registered Massage Therapist, Tyler Paterson here at Motus Strength Health Club. He can be contacted at email@example.com or you can book online at your convenience at our website www.motusstrength.ca/massage-therapy. In combination with an appropriate training plan we can help you on your way back to a place of confidence and strength.
If you have any other questions on my experience, general pain management, or subsequent training modifications then send me an email and I can offer my thoughts and/or put you in touch with a qualified professional who can help you.
Tim Walcott, Personal Trainer at Motus Strength Health Club
Disclaimer: this is not medical advice and I am not your Doctor. If you are in pain or have suffered an injury then contact your Doctor or another healthcare practitioner who is qualified to deal with your situation.
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