Many athletes who push themselves to the brink will inevitably encounter some injuries along the way. It is just natural that, in your motivation to become stronger and better, you take the body to places it is not ready to go. In some cases, the injury imposed is significant and majorly problematic; however, in most others, it is manageable, understandable, and correctable.
Overuse injuries, which fall into that manageable category, happen when an athlete does too much either too soon or too often, or both at the same time. The body responds by warning the athlete that if he doesn’t change, serious problems might occur, thus the overuse injury.
We are not talking about ripped bicep tendons or torn ACLs here. Overuse injuries are things such as swimmer’s shoulder, lower back pain, shin splints, runner’s knee, and tendinitis, all of which are correctable rather quickly given the right plan of action.
So, what is the best protocol for handling an overuse injury?
1. Diagnose the issue: Initially you can probably figure it out yourself. Treat the affected area by getting the inflammation to come down, which allows the true cause of injury to be seen. Once you have initially handled it, then, especially if the pain persists, get a medical opinion. Knowing the underlying cause of the swelling and pain will let you make better decisions about how to make sure it never happens again.
2. Correct the problem: True correction does not simply get the problem to disappear; instead, it makes it so the problem will never resurface again. Once you have the issue diagnosed, seek expert advice on how to coordinate and plan your workouts to avoid a reoccurrence. Doing the same thing as before makes little sense if that is what was at the heart of the problem.
3. Modify your training: Injuries come from overuse or poor form, so making real changes in your training will allow you to correct the problems while still making progress. In some cases, you will need to stop training for a period of time in order to give the impacted area time to rest and recover. In other instances, you will need to reduce the volume of work you are doing with that area to provide it the break it needs. In most cases, however, you can find a way to continue to train the area without inflicting addition pain or discomfort.
Overall, your intellectual response to your physical issue is key. If you promptly address the problem and disallow it from lingering and worsening, then you have the chance of managing it simply and efficiently. Conversely, if you try to push through it with the same routines and practices, then you are setting yourself up for a serious, more debilitating injury down the line.
Listen to your body, as it will inevitably always warn you of trouble to come. Understand the difference between a tough workout and real pain. The first is a good feeling that allows for growth, and the second is unnatural and takes away from your training.