Whenever an athlete suffers a gradually worsening ache or an acute but mild injury, a dilemma develops. “Do I rest this ailment and have it treated or do I continue to exercise through the pain?”
It takes two weeks to be significantly de-conditioned. But none of you believe this! You insist on continuing your training for fear of losing everything you have worked so-o-o-o hard to achieve.
‘One step back, two steps forward’. Maybe the biggest change in sports medicine is the concept of recovery. You do not have to work out every single day. Please, please give your joints and muscles time to RECOVER.
But, if you really must go on, focus on the areas that are not injured. If you have heel or knee problems from running, try swimming or biking. If your back hurts from cycling, try an elliptical machine until you feel better. If your shoulder bothers you when you do the freestyle while swimming, try another stroke or switch to running while you mend. If lifting weights is difficult, try resistance bands.
When in doubt, remember this: if it does not hurt, it should be safe. Observe proper form and never overdo it.
How do you know if it’s a pain that will pass or a more serious injury that needs attention?
Pain is a sign that something might be wrong.
Seasoned athletes, over time, know which twinges will recover on their own and which ones will not. Most injuries fall under inflammation or muscle spasms. There are a lot of over-the-counter medications to tackle these; go to your friendly pharmacist for advice. Use cold compress for swelling and hot moist packs for muscle soreness and low back pain.
Anything that progresses definitely needs to be checked out. If it is something that feels better after a few days of rest or medications, then you are probably fine.
When in doubt, just go to a rehab doctor or an orthopedic surgeon. But always listen to your gut; there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. A lot of specialists are out there, from chiropractors to acupuncturists to reflexologists to myo-therapists, so feel free to try them out. Be wary of physicians who advise surgery off the bat because a large majority of sports injuries respond well to rest, medications and physical therapy.
If you neglect a problem that needs to be addressed, you are looking at a worse situation – bigger expenses, longer down time, maybe even injections and surgery.