By Raquel Miller
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
- Benjamin Franklin.
Well, that’s great, Uncle Ben, but what should we do if and when an injury does occur?
The truth is, most of us exercise to be healthy. So when a workout leads to an injury, it can be a real bummer. And while old Benjamin Franklin was certainly right when he famously said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” (which, let's be honest, reads as borderline victim-blaming, am I right??) we also need to know what to do to ease the pain when the unfortunate workout injury does occur. Luckily, there are several tried and true remedies readily available to help nurse yourself back into a “getting-in-shape” shape, most of which are easily accomplished and for little cost.
The most commonplace on the body that most athletes and fitness enthusiasts face injuring is the back. Particularly the lower back for those of us who love weightlifting. And although bodybuilding has many known health benefits for the spine and skeletal muscles, it also has the potential to create or aggravate back injuries. Like our boy Benny Frank and us have been saying, again, it is extremely important that proper knowledge of weightlifting techniques are taken to reduce back injuries. Good gear helps, too.
Get a Move On
Okay, so we’ve done our best to play safely, but alas, we have experienced that terrible moment of “tweak” and we accept the truth: we have hurt our back. So what now? Skip the gym and hide in bed? No way! Old school thinking had doctors prescribing bed rest for back pain but that can actually be one of the WORST things you can do. We now know one of the best ways to rehab a lower back injury is to keep moving! Avoid any painful movements like those that caused the injury and instead practice habilitating ones like standing back extensions, starting with doing 10 every hour. After the injury calms down, then you can very carefully begin to slowly re-integrate and tolerate spinal flexion (fancy talk for ‘bending forward) and continue moving and training with exercises such as lunges, step-ups, split squats, and low-level core work such as dead bugs, bird dogs, and plank variations. Stretches such as knee-to-chest, cat/cow, and flexion rotations are extremely effective in soothing a lower backache, as well.
Ice, Ice, Baby. Heat, Too.
Another trusty pain management technique is the tried-and-true hot-and-cold treatment. Regular applications of ice to the painful areas on your back can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Repeat this application several times a day for about 20 minutes each time. Then, after a few days, you're going to want to switch from ice and start applying heat. Use a heating pad or warm pack to help relax your muscles and increase blood flow to the affected area. In comparison to dry heat methods, opting for moist heat can penetrate the skin faster and deeper, getting right to the muscle. A study comparing the two types of heat therapy showed a greater pain reduction with moist heat in less time than dry heat. Newer heating pad models have a dry/wet heat feature which can offer effective wet heat therapy. Another form of wet heat application is soaking in a hot tub or in a nice, hot bath.
Rock-a-Bye Bye Back Pain
Finally, you gotta get good sleep. And not just enough hours, your body positioning while sleeping can have a dramatic impact on the quality of the sleep you get. If you aren’t sleeping in an optimal position, you may become sleep deprived and poor sleep posture can also exacerbate and even cause some aches and injuries. Try and sleep on your back, making sure that your spine remains in a neutral position. If you really prefer sleeping on your side, be sure to alternate sides periodically. Additionally, avoiding looking at screens with blue light two to three hours before bed can make falling asleep easier.
No Pain, Back to Gain
Although it may not feel like it at the time of a back injury, always remember your body is amazing, adaptable, and robust! So just take the time to listen to your body and tend to your injury with care, and you’ll be back rocking your regular reps and smashing your PR in friggin’ no time.