Do you ever find yourself saying, ‘I’ve just got weak ankles’ or ‘I’ve always had dodgy knees’ or even ‘my lower back hurts but that’s just normal’? Phrases like this are commonly used, but they don’t have to be. Strengthening muscles to support weak areas and sore joints is fundamental when carrying the weight and stress of your movements. One of the best ways to do this is by using exercise rehabilitation.
When people hear the word rehabilitation, they probably think of a few sessions post injury with exercises given to do at home, which most people forget to do. However, I am going to explain to you why exercise rehabilitation doesn’t have to be that way. Firstly, you don’t have to have a serious or impact-based injury to consider exercise rehabilitation as an option, if you find you have a weaker joint or get pain in an area of the body it could just mean certain muscles are not switching on when they need to. Weaker muscles = less stability. Secondly, if your pain is stopping you from doing something you love whether that’s a sport or an everyday hobby then performing the movements that you find uncomfortable can actually help you. When it comes to pain, the odds of where you feel your pain being the cause is slim, often it’s the muscle that works in opposition to where the pain is, these are called agonist and antagonist pairs. Antagonistic pairs of muscles create movement when one (the prime mover) contracts and the other (the antagonist) relaxes, if they are not working well together it may be what’s causing your pain or weakness.
Rehabilitation doesn’t have to be post injury or after you experience pain, there is such a thing called prehabilitation (prehab). This is used to help aid recovery if you are due to have surgery. Prehab has been known to reduce length of stay post operation and increase post-operative physical benefits. It can work for several different surgeries on any joint in the body, it consists of slowly starting to work the muscles around the joint before surgery and increasing strength to ensure the joint becomes more stable to prepare for sedentary behaviour post op. It has been shown that 4-8 weeks of prehab was effective in increasing strength and function in joints pre-surgery which then carried forward into post-operative rehabilitation.
When you lose stability in a joint it is known as a functional deficit. This could be due to loss of balance, loss of control or loss of proprioception. Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of body segments in relation to other body segments, it’s the bodies ability to know joint position in relation to its surroundings. A lack of proprioception may mean that a person is unable to complete the task as they cannot direct their limbs to make the movements, this can be caused by avoiding certain movements due to pain. Exercise rehabilitation can be designed to work on proprioception and improve it massively after an injury or when struggling with pain.
When rehabilitating the body, a progressive approach is the best way. Starting with simple and strengthening exercises and slow progressing week by week to build the muscle and reduce pain of the area. The ideal time suggested is 4-6 weeks to allow the programme to progress and the body can start to heal.
The session would consist of an assessment of the joint or area where you feel your pain to determine where your deficits may be and back to basics exercises to help rebuild muscle surrounding the joint in pain or muscles that will support the painful area. This would be the first session starting the rehabilitation followed by a few simple exercises to go home with.
To summarise the benefits of exercise rehabilitation:
→enhance tissue healing
→reduced degeneration and risk of injury
→increased joint health
→increased mobility and range of movement
→relief of muscle spasms
The body isn’t designed to stay still and avoid movements, don’t be afraid of movements, use them to aid yourself and your recovery. Let them help you return to activities you enjoy. If you think exercise rehabilitation could help you then book yourself for a session today.
BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy and Reformer Pilates Instructor
All services are provided by instructors on a self-employed basis.