The Pitfalls of Prolonged Rest
Every week we hear countless patients ask us the same question: “how can I keep active even while I’m recovering from an injury?”. We completely understand: you’re fed up of resting the problem area in the hope that things will get better. Is this you? Keep reading!
We often find that the general advice given by doctors (and sometime even the internet!) is that ‘rest’ is the best thing for an injury. In the hope of healing faster, the patient then rests the problem area for prolonged periods of time. Later, though, once he/she attempts to get back to his/her activities, the pain is still there and often it’s even worse than it was at the start.
There are two major flaws in the ‘rest your problem’ strategy. The first issue is that an active person finds the idea of prolonged rest to be almost impossible, if not unbearable. Secondly, resting the area for long periods of time can actually be even more harmful – but, more on that later.
Let’s take a look at a fairly common scenario we encounter at our clinic on a regular basis. Quite a few of the patients we treat are generally active adults, and though they may not be professional athletes, they do enjoy running or cycling over the weekends. We often find that once an active patient sustains an injury – like a leg or groin injury in a runner – he/she finds it difficult to swallow the doctor’s “rest” pill. In fact, all those kind of patients want to know is when they can start running again!
And we absolutely love hearing that question! In fact, we dislike the “rest” prescription as much as the actual patient! Here are the two major problems we always try to make our patients aware of:
Firstly, rest almost NEVER actually fixes anything. Think about that for a moment. Our runner has injured his leg and is advised to rest it. What happens when he does? Well, the root cause of the problem isn’t addressed – in fact, it is often hidden behind painkillers. The problem with this is that the real healing just cannot begin. It’s as though the patient is, really, just wasting valuable time.
Secondly, resting the problem area for prolonged periods of time results in what is called “whole body de-conditioning”. That is to say, just because the patient experiences pain in the leg does not mean his/her entire body is incapable of staying active. Here’s the problem with a full-body rest-up: the entire body loses strength, power, endurance, and flexibility. Once this happens, the recovery time needed practically doubles! Remember, healing the problem area – and SUCCESSFULLY addressing and fixing the root cause of the problem – is really only possible when the muscles surrounding the issue are strengthened. This strengthening helps with support and flexibility, ensuring that the muscles in the affected area no longer overcompensate and create pain. Not strengthening these critical surrounding muscles only aggravates the issue at hand. The key is to adapt the patient, that is, to ensure that he/she keeps active in a safe/sustainable way – always building back up to the run, the walk, or the cycle. Doing this keeps the patient motivated, strong, and gives him/her the best possible start on their journey to health.
So, if you’re resting because you’re injured, but you only find more pain at the end of the day, then it’s time to make a change. Here at Cultivate Physical Therapy & Motion Lab we can help you. Our team of professional, friendly, and supportive physical therapists will help you get back to the activities you love in no time at all. With custom-made exercises suited to your routine and recovery, we aim to heal the root cause of the problem. If you heal the root cause of the problem then you are sure to create a strong foundation for the MAINTENANCE of a pain free life. This means that running, walking, or any activity you love will no longer cause anxiety or worry. We want you to get back to doing what you enjoy!
If you’re ready to finally sort that pain out, to get off of the sofa and back out running or doing what you love, give us a call TODAY. We look forward to helping you get back to health safely, quickly, and effectively.
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