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Do I Have to Stop Working Out While Injured or Doing Physical Therapy?


This is a very common question that I get in my practice. My clients want to know if they have to stop working out while we are working together to recovery from an injury or improve their aches/pains. The short answer is "No." Staying active during the rehab process is actually very important, rest (meaning completely limiting activity) is one of the worst things that you can do for an injury. At Enhance we also understand that your activities are important to you and that you do not want to stop doing the things you enjoy because of an injury or aches/pains. Whether working out is your "me time", your stress relief, or you are training for a competition, we want to make sure that you can still workout during your recovery.


Now, with all of that being said, the answer isn't quite as simple as I may have made it seem and every individual is different. There is no cookie cutter approach to training with an injury or aches/pains. However, we will dive a little deeper into some of the things that I take into consideration when working with my clients to help them modify their workouts to allow them to continue to train while we are working together.


Modify Training Variables

There are a number of different training variables that can be modified in order to allow someone to train around an injury or without pain. These training variables can be easily modified to adjust a workout routine, so that it can meet each client's unique needs.

  1. Intensity: How much effort are you giving while training? For example, you have back pain when you squat at 80% of your 1RM, but at 70% 1RM you do not have back pain. You can adjust your intensity down to percentages that keep you in a pain free range.

  2. Volume: How long are you training, number of reps, distance, etc.? Decreasing your volume slightly to allow for more recovery can very easily help aid in your recovery. For example, if you are training for a 1/2 marathon and you currently able to run 6 miles before you have knee pain, we can modify the distance you are running or even implement intervals to allow you to train for longer.

  3. Frequency: How many days per week do you train? Something as simple as adding an extra recovery day in your week can be very beneficial in speeding up your recovery process. Now, what you do on your recovery day is just as important, if not more important, as taking that additional recovery day. Make sure this day is focused around your "Recovery." You should be working on your rehab program and seeing your Physical Therapist/Chiropractor, Massage Therapist/etc.

A simple change to 1 or more of these variables can allow you to continue to workout while recovering from an injury or aches/pains. When working with my clients, we discuss all 3 of these points and make adjustments where necessary. We also continually monitor progress and make progressions or regressions when appropriate.


Modify the Exercise

Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary to modify the exercise that is causing you pain. If you have tried modifying the 3 variables above, and you are still having pain with the activity, then it is in your best interest to change up that exercise while working on your recovery. This is sometimes the hardest modification for clients to make because it is frustrating not being able to do their preferred activity or exercise. However, this is a short-term modification that can be made to allow your rehab to be more effective and ultimately recover more quickly. If you continue to push through the pain with a particular movement or exercise, you are not allowing your body to make the necessary adaptations in mobility, strength, or movement efficiency, so that you can eventually do that exercise without pain.


It is important to pay attention to what exercise you choose to modify to. You want to make sure that the new exercise will still help you meet your long-term goal. It can be easy to say, well since I am having pain with my shoulder, I just won't do any upper body exercises and I will just focus on lower body work. Well that does not help you get anywhere closer to being able to do upper body exercises in long run. Or if you are a runner, it can be easy to say that I will just take some time off of running until I feel better. However, again that ultimately doesn't get you closer to being able to complete your race or hit a new PR. We want to make sure that the exercise we modify to resembles the original exercise as closely as possible, but allows you to perform it without pain or movement compensations.


Modify your Routine

When discussing training through an injury or with pain, it is not only important to look at the actual workout itself, but it is also equally if not more important to look at your daily routine. There are a number of different factors outside of the gym or your training that can impact your recovery and performance.

  1. Warm-up: Are you priming your body appropriately for your workout? This is a simple adjustment that can make a huge difference in the way you feel and perform during a workout.

  2. Recovery: What does your post workout routine look like and what are you doing on your off days? Making sure to take an extra 10-15 min to work on some specific mobility or accessory exercises or cooling down from a workout can make a large impacting on your overall recovery process. Also, using your off days to focus on your specific rehab exercises or getting treatment will help speed up your recovery.

  3. Sleep: Are you getting enough sleep? It is recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

  4. Hydration: What is your water intake throughout the day? The recommended amount of water consumption is drinking 1/2 of your body weight in ounces per day.

  5. Nutrition: Are you fueling your body for performance? We wouldn't put the wrong type of gas in our car and expect to get very far before it breaks down, so we can't assume that our bodies will perform correctly if we aren't providing it with the nutrition it needs to function optimally.

What to do Next?


If you are dealing with an injury or aches/pains that are preventing you from enjoying or participating in your favorite activities and you have tried some of these modification options, without success, then it is time to work with a qualified professional. I promise that at Enhance Performance Therapy, we will take a holistic approach to your injury and cover all of these variables to see where we can make slight tweaks to help you get back to your activities faster, and hopefully even better than before!


Call us today at 515-985-9038 or email kassi@enhanceptdsm.com to schedule a FREE Discovery Visit to see how we can help you get back into the game!

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