I choose to post the first physio blog of the year at end of the month rather than add to the influx of new year, new me articles/blogs which don’t seem to hit home as well given the time of the year.
Has an injury or niggle, be it 6 weeks of issue or 6 months of issue, stopped you from pushing on with your training? Or is it something you have just accepted as being part of your life?
“Ah, it’s my bad shoulder..”
“That’s my dodgy knee from my Senior Cup days..”
“My back has been giving me grief but I think it’s getting better”
I would like to offer five pieces of advice from my experience of working with people who ask these question’s every day of the week. An injury or niggle doesn’t have to be representative of pain felt during a bench press or squat, but can be simple activities of daily living like playing with your kids, putting on your coat that cause you discomfort.
Recognise the issue, how it’s impacting on your life and make a plan. This will probably be the simplest piece of advice in this blog but sometimes a lack of self awareness can lead to a niggle becoming more of a chronic issue (more than 3 months). Severe pinching at the the front of the shoulder is not normal with pressing movements, similarly pinching of the hip joint is not a typical sensation to experience in a squat position.
Has your shoulder, or any other part of your body caused you pain/discomfort?
Adapting your training or lifestyle to address the issue is a fundamental requirement to finding the solution. Whether this is cutting out an exercise(s) that is aggravating the issue, or leaving your ego at the door and dropping the weight – one can’t expect the same outcome if you perform the same movement. It may be a case that you are training too hard. I understand this may sound counterintuitive but understanding the demands placed on joints and muscles is key to continue to progress with your training. Planning de-load weeks or recovery days between heavy sessions is paramount to keep the body fresh and reduces the chances of picking up an injury.
If long days at the desk are negatively impacting on your lower back, you must look to the potential causes of this. Is my chair not providing enough support? Am I leaning to close to my laptop and working off two screens too often? An ergonomic assessment of your workspace could prove massively beneficial with your sitting posture and ultimately can help reduce your level of discomfort.
Making changes to your workstation set up can lead to decreased discomfort levels at your desk.
It is common to have a training plan that doesn't give enormous variety. However, variety in your training can be key to helping recovery. Have you ever done any isometric exercises on that injured body part? Or altered grip or pathway of the movement. An example would be using the One Arm Barbell Press (Jammer Press) instead of a strict overhead press. Giving the injured body part a completely new stimuli can have a profound and immediate effect on the intensity of the pain you are experiencing.
Pain with pressing directly can be reduced by changing the angle of the pressing movement, as seen in the Jammer Press above.
4) Mobilise & Move
If you find it is necessary to take a step back completely from your training there are several things you can still look achieving to aid in your recovery. Using a foam roller/lacrosse ball to perform self-myofascial release (SMR) can offer short term benefits. Although the jury is still out on its effectiveness (Wiewelhove et al 2019), from my experience, people benefit from spending 5-10 minutes daily desensitising muscle tissues using either foam rollers or massage balls. Using power bands/mini bands help assist stretches and activate weak/restricted muscles.
Taking regular breaks or a lunch walk helps to decrease time spent in a static position at the desk. It gives you the opportunity to exercise your musculoskeletal system as well as helping your cardiovascular fitness.
Foam Rolling has been shown to be an effective strategy for short-term improvements in flexibility without decreasing muscle performance.
5) Seek Help
If you believe you have exhausted your effort on managing the issue yourself, my advice is to go to see a Health Professional (Chartered Physiotherapist, Osteopath etc). These people are trained in the assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and can draw up a rehabilitation pathway which will aid you reach your goals.
A Chartered Physiotherapist (that's me in the photo!) can diagnose the root cause of the issue, and provide effective treatment and exercises to aid recovery.
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In contrast to linear improvement, rehabilitation is often a haphazard process with positives and negatives occurring daily. Be mindful of this! Now is the time to be proactive and not reactive to injury - GO GET IT!
A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Foam Rolling on Performance and Recovery - Wiewelhove et al - Apr 2019 - Faculty of Sports Science, Ruhr, Germany
Find Out More:
If you need advice, a physiotherapy assessment or feel your team/business could learn more about workplace ergonomics, contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ffs.ie/physiotherapy.
About the Author:
Eric Cullinane is a Chartered Physiotherapist working with FFS Physiotherapy, a practice based on Leeson St Lower.
Chartered Physiotherapists have specialist knowledge in the field of work related injury management.