Don’t Fall for It

Runners – and people in general – need to rethink injury management.


Don’t fall for this harmful misconception about musculoskeletal injuries

One misconception above all others keeps people sidelined by injuries, causes injuries to reoccur and makes recovery more frustrating than necessary. The culprit?

“Rest and Recovery.”

Whether you’re talking about an overtraining injury, muscle strain or blunt trauma injury from a fall, passively waiting for it to get better is misguided. My experiences as a fitness professional, president of a running club and five years in physical therapy have strongly testified to this. At best it needlessly delays return to sport, at worst it brings about a cycle of injury and deconditioning which is enough to discourage almost anyone.

There are injuries for which ice, compression and rest may be one facet of a holistic recovery program. The inflated belief in the therapeutic value of rest, however, sidelines countless people from activity. For instance:

  • If you have strong quads and weak hamstrings—a common cause of patellar tendonitis—resting will do nothing to correct the imbalance.
  • If you’ve been injured due to poor running form, rest does nothing to correct this and may make it worse.
  • If you’re sidelined by tight IT bands, stretching and rolling won’t correct the underlying cause, which is probably weak hip abductors.
  • Even if you have a stress fracture, resting will cause your bones and muscles to atrophy further while low-impact resistance training will stimulate healing (if sound exercise protocols are followed).

On the other hand:

  • By increasing circulation, activity delivers nutrients to damaged tissue and reduces inflammation.
  • Even gentle exercise such as walking and light resistance training provides psychological benefits and helps maintain lean muscle mass.
  • Low-impact strength training under the direction of a physical therapist or certified personal trainer strengthens bones, tendons and muscles. At the same time, it will resolve muscle imbalances which may have caused the initial injury.

In sum, if you’re injured and are less than 100% certain of the cause and nature of the injury, go see a therapist, spend a few weeks cross training, or at least take a stinkin’ walk. You’re not going to magically recover watching a House of Cards marathon, as fun as it might be.

P.S. – Here’s why stretching doesn’t work.