Recovering from an injury doesn’t mean we stop all together!

Published: 30 Jun 2022

Recovering from an injury doesn’t mean we stop all together!

Now before we get deep into this blog, would like to start by drawing making it clear that in certain situations, absolute rest may in fact be needed and holds its importance. Circumstances where people may be recovering from large fractures or other major accidents resulting in hospitalisation.  Your health professionals will make it clear and this blog is not referring to those times!

How many times have you experienced a ‘niggle’? How many of you have experienced a pain when performing a particular exercise over time? How many of you have recently started running greater distances or recently started lifting heavier in the gym, to only be experiencing discomfort?

As a practicing physiotherapist with a heavy interest in all things sporting, in clinic we are commonly faced with people who have been battling with their shoulder pain which got worse with time. Or, their knee pain which worsened over time while squatting. Their calf pain while running, their back pain while deadlifting, and this list could go on for quite some while.

Now what we have found as a common trend with a lot of these people, is that they have tried resting their injury, naturally, it felt better eventually. However upon returned to their sport or training schedule, or even trying to return to their regular activities of daily life – the pain returned!

To help get your though process moving in the right direction here, would love to have you think about a few questions which may help you understand. Lets first set the context, you have developed an area of pain because something somewhere in your body isn’t moving as well as it used to, or maybe you have lost some strength over time and recently tried to do what you used to,
years ago.

Will completely resting make you stronger?

Will completely resting help you move better?

Will completely resting help you if you are about to head straight back into the same scenario which got you here in the first place?

In our wonderful world of physiotherapy, the answer to most questions like this is “it depends”. However in this context, in short, the answer to all those questions – probably not!


Rest may temporarily allow your body to feel better, as it can help that initial inflammatory response to settle, however if you haven’t addressed the underlying cause along the way – we are likely to get stuck in this cycle of pain – rest – return to activity – pain – rest and so on.

If resting long enough, this may also cause for some deconditioning, or further weakening, making your initial condition a little trickier to manage in the long run.

What we heavily recommended to many patients in clinic, would involve an approach of modifying the painful activities, and not stopping entirely. For example:

  • If it only hurts when you bench press 100kgs, drop the weight down to 60kgs. Slow the movement down and really perfect your technique. Slowly build this up over time.
  • If your ankle hurts and you run 5 times a week, dial it back down to twice a week. Maybe reduce the distance you’re running and increase your cadence.
  • Recently developed a sore calf after walking 10kms per day?  We might reduce the distance / frequency of walks as opposed to stopping altogether.
  • If your back hurts when you are sitting watching Netflix all day; try getting up and moving more often!

What is vital for almost all injuries that I have treated, is the concept of exercise / activity modification. For example, if you have a sore shoulder, it does not mean that all forms of upper body exercise are now not allowed. You will likely need some rehab exercises along the way to work on correcting an underlying issue, however along with this; we need to progressively load up the shoulder to re encourage movement and safe healing. And this can’t happen if we don’t ‘use it’.

Try think of slightly modifying your program or reducing your load, as a means of letting things calm down (reduced pain sensitivity), so that we can build it back up (rehabilitate the underlying problem). What I am trying to say, is that completely resting your injury is very rarely the solution. See a Physiotherapist who can help tailor a specific rehab program and modify your current exercise routine to help you perform at your best, as quickly and safely as possible.

If you require more specific information or are currently battling an injury or need advice on how to train around your injury, you are welcome to reach out to me.  I can be contacted at The Healthy Body Company in Jordan Springs on (02) 4722 6994.