Whether your injury occurred during sports activity or not, simply getting back to the point where it doesn’t cause you any more pain is likely to result in future problems. Firstly, there’s the tissue damage itself. The body is very good at doing a rough repair job, but needs help if it is to rebuild tissues that will be able to do work as effectively as it did before the damage occurred. For example, muscle fibres need to be aligned in parallel if they are to contract effectively, whereas scar tissue unfortunately tends to laid down randomly following a strain, forming a restriction and area of weakness that is prone to re-injury. Massage techniques such as deep friction and soft tissue release can help, but returning the muscle to full strength as soon as possible in order to avoid the secondary problems caused by subsequent joint and postural issues also requires the right exercise rehabilitation strategy.
Having your activity curtailed due to either acute or chronic injury is extremely unpleasant, especially if you’re a particularly active person who likes to run about. Not only is there the pain and discomfort to deal with, but the psychological effects of enforced rest, during which time you know your hard won fitness is draining away, coupled with the feeling of uncertainty as to whether you’ll recover 100%, can be even worse. On top of this, the health service is, quite rightly, designed to return you to a state of being able to carry out the ‘activities of daily living’ and no further. Needless to say, this does not include being able to bounce down moguls on the family skiing holiday, nor is it likely to prevent your injury coming back to haunt you years later.
An exercise rehabilitation programme starts with helping you to regain your joint mobility, proprioception and functional strength, which basically means that the joint can do what it needs to do on a one-off basis. From here onwards we move into functional endurance so that this basic functionality can be maintained. This is the point at which most doctors and physiotherapists have done their job. From here onwards, unless you’re a professional sports person, getting back first to recreational strength and endurance then on to the levels of co-ordination, speed and power necessary to perform at a higher level will be up to you. Working with an exercise therapist and, as may be necessary in the later stages, also in conjunction with a sports specific coach, will help ensure you get back on top of your game, and stay there.