Updated: Mar 23, 2020
New research proves that rest may be an overused treatment when it comes to injury rehabilitation.
In 2004, a review of 49 studies compared rest to early mobilisation on limb injuries and found mobilisation produced a reduction of pain and stiffness and even encouraged a greater preservation of range of movement.
This idea was further cemented in 2007 with a report published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that directly challenged the idea that injured athletes must stop their sport during healing. Fast forward ten years and Canadian research on running and knee pain continued to support this conclusion. Runners suffering with knee pain instead of being told to cease all activity were instead advised how to modify their running to keep it within acceptable pain levels whilst also performing strengthening and rehab exercises. This was strictly monitored over eight weeks with one group only doing the exercises and the other group doing both exercises and running. The conclusion? The runners gained just as much symptom relief and functional improvement as the non runners. Exercising hadn’t set them back at all.
Whilst every injury is individual, it is reassuring to know that exercise when injured is not necessarily (when performed after advice from a doctor and health professional) detrimental, but can in many cases be beneficial. In fact, this research shows that the longer you are out of training, the greater the deconditioning of tissue and loss of mobility can increase. Not forgetting the affect not training may have on the mental aspect of health, as well as the potential social isolation from not doing your regular physical activity with friends.
But our advice would still have to be, keep your movement smart. Every injury is different and in the first instance, always consult your doctor or practitioner for advice. You will need to understand the severity of the injury before you continue to mobilise the area. With some injuries such a stress fracture there is obviously a healing process that needs to be undertaken. Yet, the injury itself is a key indicator that the bones and tissues were not strong enough to deal with the load they were being placed under, so work needs to be done to address this first. Imagine resting an injury to then place exactly the same stress or strain on the body again when returning back to training, but this time returning back to a further deconditioned and weaker tissue. It's not going to end well is it? So be sensible and take advice first.
Rest Is Not Always the Answer - Rest is not always the answer and may further decondition a weakness therefore risk of greater injury or return to exercise. Consider sensible ways to mobalise the injury to help support rehabilitation.
Keep Your Movement Smart - Don’t just run and don’t just do strength training, do a combination of the two to protect, to repair and to progress and only do this if your injury can handle the load.
Get Professional Advice Before You Do Anything - Always check with a health professional before embarking on any kind of rehabilitation after an injury. Every injury is different so the appropriate care MUST be taken to ensure further damage is not done.