*Disclaimer – this is intended as advice only and is not intended to diagnose injuries, act as medical care or replace the judgment of healthcare professional.
1 – Slow down and assess.
What happened; did something “tweak/pop” etc. or did your pain come on over a period of time? Is it something you’ve experienced in the past, or is this a new problem for you?
Are there obvious signs of a major injury, such as significant swelling, bruising, the inability to bear weight/lift an arm, unusual weakness or numbness/tingling? Is there pain at all times that does not change with activity or keeps you from doing normal things in your everyday life (aside from exercising)?
If so, find someone who can spend enough time to listen to you and understand what your current issues are. If you have big concerns, consider getting assessed by your healthcare practitioner – Dr. Google may not be your best bet!
If not, things are less likely to be all that serious – in any event, don’t panic. Figure out what you can and can’t do, and focus more on the can than the can’t. This will help you with step two.
2 – Keep moving.
Unless you absolutely can’t (severe pain or inability) keep moving the affected part of your body. Whether that is reducing weight, picking difference exercises, or even just gentle stretching/movement, keep moving. The body has amazing potential to heal itself, and it does a lot better if we keep our fluids circulating and not stagnating – the body produces a lot of chemicals when it’s repairing an injury, and you don’t want them just sitting there. Ice as appropriate for swelling.
Even if you are totally unable to use the affected body part (such as after a surgery), keep moving the rest of your body. Walking, biking or other aerobic exercise can help maintain your fitness base and improve healing. There is a lot of grey area in what you can and can’t do, such as training the opposite side limb, or continuing to train your upper/lower body around an injury. When in doubt, consult a professional (like us!) for guidance.
3 – Appropriate re-loading.
Step 3 is really just a continuation of Step 2. It’s important not to try to jump right back to everything you were doing before the injury, especially if you’re not sure why it occurred. Let your symptoms be your guide, and work gradually towards your previous level of movements and weights.
If you feel stuck at a plateau or symptoms return along the way, consider getting an assessment from a coach or therapist to dial in form or see if you have strength/mobility needs that could improve your performance. Finding modifications is key at that this point to rebuild your strength with minimal irritation.