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Working Around an Injury

Contrary to popular belief, it is often unnecessary to pinpoint the exact cause of symptoms in order to work around a musculoskeletal injury, apart from a few concerning signs:


(1) A visible deformity (ex. a joint or bone is visibly out of place)

(2) Loss of sensation, paralysis, loss of bowel or bladder function

(3) Debilitating pain


Despite what most people think, an MRI often doesn’t change management, and often picks up inconsequential incidental findings unrelated to symptoms.


As long as it’s not a fracture or a neurological emergency requiring surgical management, most injuries are self-resolving, and imaging or various manual therapies add nothing. Here are simple strategies that will help you work around the injury while it heals:



(1) Lay off the injured area initially, and use the opportunity to work on another body part. Ex. Your knee hurts, so you focus on hip flexion/extension, calves, and upper body.


(2) Once the pain begins to subside, slowly introduce movement patterns that involve the affected area, but in a partial, pain-free range of motion. Wait a day to assess whether what you did ends up aggravating your symptoms. If it does, back off. If it doesn’t, increase the range-of-motion, gradually building back up to full range over several workouts.



(3) Once you achieve a pain-free full range-of-motion, start loading the movement, slowly building back up to the weight/resistance you were using prior to the injury over several workouts.


Notice how simple this is, yet it will work in the vast majority of cases without ever needing imaging, manual therapies, or special rehabilitative exercises. You can manage a lot of things on your own, but when in doubt, seek expert counsel.


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