Staying Active When You're Injured

by thegoodvillager

You may not be able to walk, but it is important not to give up all physical activity.

So you've got a bad foot or knee injury - something that prevents you from getting up, out, around, and through your normal day-to-day activities. It could be a sprain or ligament tear, or perhaps a fracture or break. You might be in a lot of pain.

One thing is certain, though; you feel physically vulnerable or fragile. You are suddenly faced with a number of physical hurdles that wouldn't have even hit your radar when you encountered them in what may not seem like a distant past life. You might be severely limited in what you can accomplish mobility-wise, and you might have been told to limit your activity for a while.

The Reality of Injury

In truth, we take our bodies for granted. How often do you wake up, assess all your body parts and systems and feel thankful that things work the way they're supposed to, more or less? Probably seldom to never. Usually, it isn't until we've suffered some sort of injury, disease or other mishap that we realize the jobs each of our parts do in helping us to carry on through the day. And it's not even on a 'hmm, my foot is broken and I can't walk now' level, but you'll see exactly how your specific injury affects a whole variety of activities, and how, as you heal, you will have to 'relearn' certain motions.

I don't advocate trying out an injury or loss of capacity, but it really is a humbling experience to learn how our parts work together to do seemingly simple, but actually quite complex things.

If you are injured, especially in a serious way or in a way that affects you long-term, you'll need to come to grips with it, and find ways to play to your strengths. Further, you'll need to find a way to stay healthy and make the adjustments needed to fulfill your body's needs.

Arms and Shoulders

Upper body injuries, such as those that happen to hands, arms and shoulders, are much less serious than lower body injuries (unless you're a musician or a body builder, perhaps). You can still walk, run, climb stairs. You can get out, leave your home, without too much difficulty. Depending on your injury, yoga and slow stretching can be helpful in keeping the muscles and ligaments gently engaged.

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Foot, Knee, Leg and Hip Injuries

Lower body injuries can be much more serious in that they have much more significant impact on your daily routine. It is quite likely that you are not able to walk, especially at first. You will be blown away by how limited you suddenly become when you can't walk. Performing simple tasks in your home require calculations in order to most economically do as much as possible with the least movement involved. Often, you'll require limb elevation for a period of time. Showering and going to the bathroom become major events, especially if you live alone. Once things begin healing enough so that you can start getting around a little, you'll still have many limitations.

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be 'laid up' for a rather long time. Muscles atrophy in the areas you aren't using. You lose flexibility in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Your cardiovascular health will deteriorate. But it needn't be quite as horrible as it all sounds. As you begin to heal, there are things you can do to exercise. You may not be able to run, walk quickly, or climb stairs, but you can do limited yoga, pilates, mat work, and dance. Yes, you heard me correctly - dance. Not John Travolta-style dancing, but if you're arms are working, and you're gaining stability in your affected limb, you can get some cardiovascular activity going that will also benefit your balance and proprioception.

As with all injury recovery, you'll likely want to speak with a health professional prior to starting an exercise program, but overcome any nervousness about testing out an unreliable limb. Regaining strength is important.

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Back Injuries

Back injuries present a special set of problems, and right off the bat, I'm going to say: be careful and talk to a health practitioner.

There could be one of any number of problems going on when you've injured your back. In some cases, you may be able to pinpoint what exactly happened and what is going on. Perhaps you have been in a car accident, and the impact did a number on your spine. In other cases, and I can speak from experience, you didn't really do anything that was outside the realm of your daily routine. Perhaps you just bent over to pick something up, and suddenly, you can barely move, barely do anything at all.

Get your back looked at. Your back is part of your core, it houses part of your central nervous system, and injuries can affect all of your extremities.

Supportive Devices

Sometimes supportive devices, such as ACE bandages, canes, crutches, medical boots, or medicated creams and oils can be helpful when you're healing. Be careful not to become too dependent on support as you become stronger. Consult with a physiotherapist for advice on devices to use and how to wean yourself off them as you heal.

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Worst Injuries Poll

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What was the worst injury you've suffered?
Updated: 04/30/2013, thegoodvillager
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thegoodvillager on 04/30/2013

Yes!!!! Absolutely. I've heard of it, and it is a fantastic idea of you're not at the point where you can stand up to boogie. Thanks for reminding me!

belinda342 on 04/30/2013

I'll let you in on a great fitness program I found a couple of years back that would be great for people with foot/leg injuries. It's called Chair Dancing. A complete fitness program done from the seat of a chair! You can probably find the Dvds on Amazon. They might be something good to offer here...

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