Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rehabilitative Flexibility

Rehabilitative flexibility is the initial recovery period from a serious injury. It begins with you working with a physical therapist. This article will primarily cover what you must do to regain the flexibility and strength of the injured area.

Keep in mind that the rehabilitation process is a team approach---you, your physical therapist and your personal trainer.

You should rehabilitate the injured area as follows:

1. Restore the range of motion.
2. Restore flexibility and strength of the injured area.
3. Regain balance lost because of the injury.

You should proceed with caution when you begin any exercise. Stop any exercise that causes pain. Continuing an exercise in pain will only set your rehabilitation back.

Restoring the range of motion is critical because it lays the groundwork for future training. Range of motion should be restored in all 3 planes.

For example, if you had a knee injury, you might have to begin your exercises with partial range of motion (working towards full range) in one plane. You would gradually work towards including exercises that required sideways, rotating, twisting or turning actions.

Once range of motion is restored, you can then begin to introduce light weight training exercises and stretching exercises to strengthen the injured muscles, tendons and ligaments.

It is also important to stretch and strengthen the areas around the injured area. Use of machine weights, isometric exercises (the injured area contracts but doesn't move), resistance bands or bodyweight exercises are all good in the rehabilitation process.

Balance and proprioception (limb position sense in 3D space) must be restored or the injury will probably reoccur. When a part of the body is injured, the nerve cells in that area are also damaged. This affects your control and the stability of the joint structures.

Once you have regained some strength and flexibility, you should begin to do balance exercises. You could start with simple exercises like walking in a straight line and progress to one-legged or closed-eyed exercises. You would then gradually progress to stability ball exercises, foam cushion exercises, BOSU exercises, etc.

The rehabilitation process can not be rushed. Trying to come back too fast from an injury will almost certainly lead to reinjury.

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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