Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, physical therapist or medical practitioner of any kind. I am only going to discuss things from my own experience. Any advice offered should be taken with a grain of salt as every individual case can be different.
Imagine this for a moment. You’re six weeks into your preparation for your next competition. Everything is going great, you feel good and it appears nothing is going to stop you. Then in one moment you misstep or get a little loose in your approach, and BAM! You get an injury. Oh, no. Everything comes to a screeching halt, and now you think you’re at risk of losing everything you’ve worked so hard for up to this point. In your mind, you may as well be dead.
Injuries are a part of competitive strength sports. We do everything we can to mitigate the risks, but injuries happen. No matter how much we perfect our technique and use safety equipment, we can still find ourselves dealing with an injury. Some people think that there are only two options when dealing with injuries. You either completely stop training and let the injury heal, or you meathead your way through and grind through painful sets. Can we train around or through injuries? The answer is, it depends. Injuries exist on a spectrum from minor to debilitating. Some injuries can be nagging and go away on their own. Others need medical intervention. The key is to figure out where on the severity spectrum the injury is and come up with a plan to deal with it.
An important step you should take when dealing with an injury is to see a doctor. Don’t just pop a couple of ibuprofen and hope it goes away. Ideally, you would see a doctor who specializes in sports medicine and has experience with strength athletes. Family physicians and orthopedic specialists are great, but if they are not used to dealing with strength athletes, they may not be the best option for you. Strength athletes are people who push their physical abilities to the extreme. It can be difficult for some doctors to understand a person with that mindset. Once you find the appropriate doctor, you should do what is necessary to see exactly what the injury is. If something is structurally broken like a muscle tear or bone fracture, you’ll probably have to discuss some major medical intervention and some time off. However, if the injury is not so severe, then you’ll likely be able to keep pushing on with your training within certain parameters. The most important thing is to follow the rehabilitation protocol given to you by the doctor. If you don’t do what is necessary to rehab the injury, you will prolong the recovery process and hinder your training progress. Don’t be afraid to explore multiple treatment options to supplement what your doctor prescribes. Passive treatment like massages and electrotherapy can be helpful. Even if passive treatments only help you “feel” better, it can make the recovery process a little more bearable.
If the injury is not too severe, it is important to continue to train. Movement fuels the recovery process. You may need to alter your approach to your training where needed. For example, if you have some kind of leg injury that causes you to feel pain during a squat, you should consider modifying how you squat. You should squat just above the degree of pain. You don’t want to squat until you feel pain, and you certainly don’t want to push through the pain. For instance, if you feel pain halfway through the concentric, then squat just above that zone. Doing this will allow you to do two things. Firstly, you will still be able to train the movement. Even if you may have to lighten the load, you can still keep your numbers at least fairly close to where they were before the injury. Secondly, and most importantly for rehabilitation, it will allow you to push blood to the site of the injury and facilitate recovery. I had to do this when I was dealing with a low back injury. Deadlifting from the floor was painful. I was able to deadlift off of blocks completely pain free. Until my injury healed, I was able to deadlift off of blocks, and I was able to keep the load pretty close to my training numbers. Just be very mindful and careful when doing this. Don’t rush into heavy loads right away. Take things slowly and make sure you can train pain free.
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“Circumstances don’t make the man; they only reveal him to himself.” -Epictetus