Nobody’s perfect. No matter how good your form or how small your ego is, there comes a time when every guy hurts himself in the gym. The important thing to know is how to train around the injury while encouraging it to heal properly. Marc Megna, a fitness model and strength coach for Bommarito Performance Systems in Aventura, FL, offers this advice.
1) Identify the Problem
“You need to make a clear diagnosis of the injury,” Megna says. “An overuse injury in the joint usually needs rest, while pain in the muscle may require blood flow to help the tissue heal.” When in doubt, see a doc for an official verdict.
For strains, sprains, and pulls, this may be all the treatment you need.
REST. Stop doing stuff—or at least stuff that hurts. ICE. Apply an ice pack (a bag of frozen peas may be better, since it will conform to the shape of whatever body part you’re icing). Hold it in place for 20 minutes at a time. Cold compresses relieve pain and reduce swelling. COMPRESSION. Wrap a bandage around the injury firmly but not tightly. It shouldn’t feel like you’re cutting off the blood flow or causing the affected area to throb. A little pressure helps keep swelling down. ELEVATION. Rest the area on a level that’s above your heart. Reducing blood flow can help minimize swelling. Inflammation is part of the healing process. These steps are meant to help control it, not eliminate it. After 48 hours, feel free to use moist heat, which will help improve blood flow.
2) Take an Angle
If the pain is in the joint, then rest it. But you may find that doing a variation of the exercise that hurt you— simply from a different angle—will allow you to train pain-free. If the pain is muscular, you can switch up exercises and angles or just reduce the load you’re using. Training through certain situations may be beneficial because exercising will flush blood (filled with nutrients) into the area and speed recovery.
3) Use Partial Ranges
Sometimes only part of the range of motion for an exercise causes discomfort. A squat might aggravate your hip in the bottom position, but the top three quarters of the movement might feel OK. “Limiting the range of motion will still create blood flow and allow you to train the same movement while avoiding further injury,” Megna says.
4) Stay Positive
Be committed to your recovery and look on the bright side. “Whether you have to do rehab, RICE [rest, ice, compression, and elevation], or active recovery, be diligent and approach it with enthusiasm, regardless of your setback,” Megna says. “Your attitude will play a huge role in the recovery process.”