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I've had my fair share of sports-related injuries. Let's see - I blew out my left knee senior year in high school soccer (torn mcl), then I rehabbed it just enough to blow it out again my freshman year of college (torn acl). I broke my wrist skateboarding on a rain-dampened sidewalk, and I tore ligaments in my thumb catching a football at the beach. (Don't ask how that one happened, because I'm still trying to figure it out myself.)
All of those were painful to various degrees, but none of them lingered - I sustained an injury, the injury healed or was repaired, and then I was better. It makes for a boring story, actually. But this one feels different, and I'm getting nervous about where it's headed.
2 nights ago it felt great - no lingering pain, no soreness - so I allowed myself to goof around a little bit at Jason's soccer practice. Not running, or playing, or anything close to full speed - just moving a little more freely. Oops, turns out that wasn't very smart. Yesterday it felt sore again, and today it hurts as much as it did in the days right after I injured it.
Looks like it's time to crawl into a bubble for the next few weeks - no activity for me through the holidays, then I can re-evaluate.
Learn from my story
So let's talk about pain and injuries - when should you "play through" the pain and when should you stop working out?
This is a good time to remind you that I am not a doctor, and I am especially not your doctor. What follows is my own personal opinion after many years of exercising, playing sports, and reading hundreds of articles on various injury topics. Do not take my opinion as licensed medical advice.
Soreness, Pain, and Injury.
When you feel pain, take a minute to listen closely to what your body is telling you. Are you sore from yesterday's lunges? Or did you pull something more seriously?
Does your body "warm up" and feel better as the workout goes on? Or do you find yourself gutting it out through every step?
The sharpness of the pain can also be an indicator. If you get a sharp pain when you move your body a certain way, that's probably more than muscle soreness.
If you take a couple-few days off, does the pain go away?
Some things in your body (muscles, inflamed tendons) will heal themselves given time and rest. Other things (torn ligaments or tendons) may require medical intervention. You might also find a physical therapist &/or a chiropractor who can provide relief and further education about stretches and exercises you might need to be doing to avoid further or repeat injuries.
We all want to stay fit and healthy, and to get our workouts in. Make sure to warm up before your heavy exertion, and listen to your body regarding pain. Seek out professional advice (doctor, physio therapist) if something doesn't seem right and/or isn't healing on its own.
It's better to take a little bit of time off now and return to full speed, than to be stuck at half speed (or worse) for an extended period of time.
Personally, I'll keep you posted from inside my frustratingly boring bubble. Wish me patience.
- Chris Butterworth