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Exercise Science

Should you rest after an injury?

Should you rest after an injury?

Perhaps not.

Traditionally, our immediate response to a musculoskeletal injury is to rest and let the body heal itself, after all everyone who has done basic first aid knows that the R in R.I.C.E. is rest!

However, the importance on rest has been greatly overemphasised in the past and this thinking has perpetuated to this day, even though we have more and more evidence telling us that this may not be the best thing to do, and may even cause harm.

The reason for this is that these types of injuries cause a decrease in our body’s function (our body’s ability to move and perform activity) therefore to recover from these injuries we must focus on improving our body’s function, rather than not moving and waiting for the injury to resolve.

Instead of completely resting after an injury, your Osteopath/ Physiotherapist may give you modified exercises that mimic your chosen activity (e.g. walking instead of running). This strategy is known as relative rest, where we decrease the workload on the body but don’t completely remove the workload – known as absolute rest.

For any chronic injuries, such as chronic low back pain, or an osteoarthritic knee, rest is strongly discouraged. This is for all the reasons listed above plus the fact that improper healing may have occurred and interventions such as exercise therapy will be required.

To sum up, the old method of simply resting when injured is outdated, the evidence is clear that for most injuries we need to be doing some sort of functional rehabilitation and modification of physical activity loads in order to optimise our recovery. For the small number of injuries that do require absolute rest, the timeframes are short and a quick return to movement is almost always necessary.

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