As much as we try to avoid it, at one point or another, we’ve all had some form of injury. The type, location, severity, cause, and duration all may differ, but one thing remains the same: any form of injury always leaves behind some trauma.
This trauma leaves us prone to reinjury risk. Studies have shown hamstring strain reinjury rates to be around 34%, ACL- 70%, ankle sprain- 75%, and shoulder injuries- 87%. YIKES. Those aren’t great numbers if you want to stay healthy.
Studies have also found the risk of reinjury is significantly higher in younger patients (the rate of reinjury being 72% for those under 23 years old as opposed to 27% for those over 30 years old). That doesn’t seem like great news for the younger athletes out there.
Regardless if your injury was from muscle ups or sneezing too hard (yeah, it happens), the injury site will always be slightly different afterwards.
Healing the injury correctly is important, but it’s also important to stay mindful of the injury long after it’s healed. This means regular mobility and corrective work.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t promise your injuries will not return…But I will say this will help your chances to reduce that risk, though.
Injuries change the way our bodies work and move, even if you don’t realize it. Trauma to the body leaves behind scar tissue which can cause both pain and/ or lack of mobility which leads our bodies to compensate for this change. You can even subconsciously favor one side over the other. Over time, this can lead to recurrence of injury, pain, imbalances, or even cause new injuries.
Mobility work can help to prevent your single injury from becoming a recurring problem.
While we’re healing an injury, say a torn muscle, we spend a lot of time stretching it, massaging it, icing it, etc. But once it’s healed, we forget about and move on a couple weeks later, disregarding a very important aspect of healing: maintenance.
Failure to maintain a healthy joint, ligament, muscle, etc. can allow for the problem to happen again and again… and the more it happens, the denser the scar tissue build up becomes.
To keep stretching and properly mobilizing a formerly injured body part is such a simple concept, but often ignored.
If you’re an athlete, remaining mindful of past injuries is especially essential. If you intend to stay competitive in your sport long-term, you’ll need to ensure they have as little chance of recurring as possible.
But how do we do this? How do you maintain a healed injury? Can’t you just heal an injury and forget about it?!
Short answer: No.
Long answer: After a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon has been damaged, scar tissue replaces the formerly healthy tissue. Collagen is filled in in a sporadic pattern rather than the methodical placement prior to injury. This creates stiff muscles and joints in order to prevent the body from dangerous and painful movements. Scar tissue isn’t necessarily permanent and can be decreased over time. A process called ‘remodeling’ actually removes these abnormal cells and replaces them with healthy tissue. Remodeling is stimulated from stretching and pulling on the scar tissue, which is exactly why continuing to mobilize an injury after healing is so important. This process could take weeks, months, or years. So that means you have to stay at it for it to actually work.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT
Mobilize the area early and often
The sooner after injury you massage out the affected joint, muscle, tendon, or ligament, the lower chance you have of scar tissue building up.
You don’t have to do this every day for the rest of your life, though. Just frequent and long enough for the scar tissue to lessen.
Take your time warming up
Maintenance entails smart, effective, and thoughtful mobility work. Don’t just stretch just to stretch.
(Note: remember that mobility work is anything that improves flexibility: foam rolling, using a lacrosse ball, Voodoo flossing, static or dynamic stretching, massage, etc. See Mobility 101 for more info.)
Spend 10-15 minutes during your warm up doing some corrective mobilization that is specific to your body and injury.
For me, my major problem has been my shoulder and my SI joint. So, during my warm-ups, I consider the surrounding tissues.
Shoulder: traps (both upper and lower), my pec major, and my lats. SI joint: that means my piriformis, hip flexors, and psoas.
By taking the time to mobilize prior injuries, I’m making sure my body won’t overcompensate for the injured side, breaking up scar tissue, and also sending signals to my brain that the positions I’m putting my body into are safe.
Seek a coach who can understands corrective work
Corrective work helps to bring your body back into balance. It isn’t something you can do once or twice and expect a change. It has to be done regularly to ensure it will stay that way.
While I can’t guarantee this will eliminate any chance of reinjury, I can say this will reduce your risk if done correctly.
Email me at the link below if you need some more info.
Yours in health,