Should I Exercise with an Injury?

Jay Ruettgers

Whether you are new to the exercise and fitness world, or a seasoned workout guru, there can be a gray area when it comes to recovering from an injury. You may wonder, ‘Should I continue to move and exercise when I have an injury, or should I rest?’ And, depending on where you look or whom you ask, the answers can vary dramatically.

When is movement a better option than rest for an injury?

Our bodies are made to move, and movement can be an integral part of the healing process. Without movement, our bodies can be more prone to atrophy and stiffness, especially after an injury. Granted, a lot of us don’t want to move when we are in pain, but gentle movement patterns can actually aid in our recovery, helping us get better faster.

Engaging in the right level and type of exercise can help promote tissue healing by reducing scar tissue and limiting adhesion formation, which can lead to chronic tendonitis or tendinopathy.

Movement can increase circulation. When we opt to move our bodies rather than remain sedentary during recovery from an injury, we boost our circulation. This helps reduce inflammation by bringing oxygen to our body’s tissues and helping to remove metabolic waste.

older adults exercising outside

Movement helps calm down the nervous system as well. Somatic nerve receptors live in the skin, fascia, joints, and other connective tissues. These nerve receptors are responsible for sending information to your brain. Studies show that movement can help to calm these specific types of nerve receptors, reducing the body’s pain receptor input to the brain.

Finally, movement just feels good. Keeping active can help lower depression and limit the emotional cost of an injury.

So, unless you are dealing with a fracture or catastrophic injury, movement is the best method, starting with a gentle range of motion and slowly progressing to functional activities.

Think of replacing RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) with MICE (Movement, Ice, Compression, Elevation). And as always, consult your primary physician and make an appointment with your physical therapist – your movement specialist – for guidance on how to incorporate movement safely and effectively into your recovery.

Stay healthy and keep moving.

Start your physical therapy journey today.

As physical therapists, we know the importance of movement for overall health and well-being. From injury recovery to achieving optimal performance, our passion is to help every patient reach their goals and live an active, pain-free life. Get started with PT today!

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