One of the major concerns for anyone recovering from an injury is the possibility of re-injury. This holds true especially for recovering from lower back problems.
Re-injury may occur because of inadequate reconditioning and rehabilitative exercise.When an injury requires a layoff, as many injuries do, the muscles weaken and there is a decrease in muscle tone, size and strength. Using the foregoing example of an injury to the lower back, it may take 6-8 weeks or longer to fully rehabilitate. In the case of damage to a vertebral disc, it may take several months of intensive rehabilitative exercise before strength, flexibility and full function return fully. It’s easy to see that when someone recovering from an injury tries to go right back to regular everyday activity without rehabilitation the chance of re-injury is greatly increased.
In general, rehabilitation can start as soon as possible after an injury. However, determining just when that it is means working within the scope of a physician’s treatment plan.
In general, the first few weeks of a rehabilitation program should focus on flexibility and range of motion through the use of non-resistance exercises such as:
- Pelvic tilt – Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Tighten you abdominal muscles and try to press you lower back to the floor. Hold for a count of five and release.
- Double leg pull – Lie flat on your back with your legs extended. Slowly pull your knees to your chest and hold for a count of five.
- Partial curl-up – Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and tuck in your chin. Tighten your abdominal muscles and gently curl your body halfway up. Hold for a count of three and slowly curl back down.
If an exercise causes more pain, immediately have the client stop and try something else.
Once flexibility is restored, it’s possible to initiate a series of resistance training exercises. Resistance should be no heavier than 40-50% of the client’s maximum reps should stay in the 15-20 range. The overall goal of this phase is to focus on strict form and at the same rebuild muscle strength and endurance. This type of light resistance training should be followed for at least 4-6 weeks.
With a properly designed resistance training program, strength levels can easily be restored or increased, reversing the deterioration of the muscles and bone that may have otherwise occurred had the individual turned away from exercise entirely. There may be no better time than during a rehabilitation program for a client to grasp the importance of adhering to proper form, particularly in regard to its role in protecting him or her against further injuries.