Author- Daniel Rothenberg – Sports Chiropractor and Master’s Exercise Science (2019). West End Sports Chiropractic

Returning to exercise after injury or persistent pain can be a difficult process. For some, exercise may re-aggravate old symptoms, for others there may be a degree of  reluctancy due to the fear of re-injury. For others it may be easy, with no hiccups when returning to activity. Below are a few things to think about when resuming exercise after injury.

1.Current level of fitness.

Your current level of fitness is most likely lower than it was pre-injury. It is often a change in mindset that is the biggest shift, as we are likely to want to start off where we had finished. Initially there may be a degree of trial and error, but a good indicator of whether you have trained at a sustainable level is by your pain levels. If you have pain during exercise OR within the following 24hr period, you may want to adjust your training. This can be done by modifying your training variables, by altering the;

  • Specific exercises
  • Intensity of your training
  • Reps/Sets
  • Duration
  • Recovery time

Main takeaway point- Start off slowly and make sure you finish each training session feeling good. As you start your training remember you will need more recovery time (between reps/sets and between training sessions). Shift your mindset to one of patience.

2. Movement variability

 When returning to exercise, make sure you are training in multiple planes of motion. Teach yourself to move in different ways. This allows your brain to be challenged and to engage different muscles and joints which will ultimately improve your nervous system. From a pain perspective, learning to move in different ways can alter your brains perception of pain and teaches your body to adapt in different ways. A good resource for some novel ways to move is Original Strength, click here for their YouTube channel.

Main takeaway point- Moving in different ways improves your body’s adaptation and ultimately can improve your health for the long term.

3. Underlying beliefs about exercise

This is an interesting one. Your underlying beliefs about exercise plays a major role in how well you adapt and develop in that form of training. This is essentially a placebo effect and has been shown to play an important role in pain management and training outcomes. If you believe an exercise/training program is likely to give you good outcomes, they are more likely to. Conversely, if you believe an exercise may cause pain or injury, it is more likely to. This is called the nocebo effect. Ultimately, choosing a form of exercise or finding a coach that you trust to get you better, may help you return to your desired level of fitness and performance quicker. 

Main takeaway point- Find a coach, or a style of exercise that you enjoy and believe will help you. There does not appear to be much evidence that any particular type of exercise is better than any other, so it comes down to you- you need to decide what you think will help to benefit your pathway back to fitness. 

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Daniel Rothenberg

Daniel Rothenberg is a Sports Chiropractor with a Masters of Chiropractic and Masters of Exercise Science majoring in Strength & Conditioning. He works closely with a range of athletes in Brisbane and Ipswich.