Whether you are a serious athlete, a weekend warrior, or a couch potato who forgot to stretch before you went to the fridge, injuries are a real thing. Recovering from that muscle strain or hamstring pull or a back spasm, just to mention a few of the roadblocks you may face is a daunting task. Do you walk it off or let it rest?
So how do you know if the injury is one that is needs rest or you should just “walk it off”? There are many things to remember, first you know your body. Don’t second guess yourself. Second everyone’s pain threshold is different. Asking your friend who seemingly had the same injury as you… isn’t ideal. Then how do you know if you should walk it off or let it rest?
Let it Rest
When you decide to let it rest, there are some things you must remember. Even in rest you aren’t necessarily just laying around. Rest will mean elevation, ice, or heat. In some cases, it will mean swimming instead of running or yoga instead of cycling. Rest is never completely restful. What type of ‘rest’ you will do depends on a few factors. What part of your body did you injure? If you tweaked your wrist, you might want to ice it, but you can also rest that injury by doing some walking.
If you injured your ankle or knee, nothing too serious but painful enough that you realize you shouldn’t be on it, after elevating it and icing it down you are getting restless? Try swimming it is easier on the joints and you are resting the injured part of your body. For alternative activities, check out the Plan2Play mobile app.
Muscle Strain Maintenance
Resting is a relative term. But there are times you will have to actually sit or lay down and do some maintenance on your injured body part. A muscle strain will require some maintenance. If you have a strain elevate the stained muscle and apply ICE. Ice will lessen the swelling and manage the pain. After the swelling has gone down then apply heat. I wish there was an easy wordplay to help you remember but I can’t think one. So it is:
Elevate: To avoid further swelling you will elevate the swelling portion above your heart. This will let the fluid that is causing the swelling to drain from the area.
Ice: Ice will reduce swelling and lessen your pain.
Heat: When you don’t have swelling but are in pain, think heat.
Alternate Between Ice and Heat
There are times you will alternate between ice and heat. I know this doesn’t sound much like “resting”. But hey you aren’t walking, running or cycling on your injured body part. Just remember if swelling is involved ICE first…heat applied before the swelling goes down will cause more swelling and more pain. That is not anyone’s idea of resting.
Walking it Off
It is kind of a misnomer. Walking it off? Can you walk? That doesn’t always mean that it is the best course of action. Walking produces an increase in endorphin production. Endorphins are pain inhibiting hormones your body produces. So walking it off can actually cause you to do more damage because your body is producing hormones that are trying to tell you it’s all right…even when it is not. The secret is we have to be smarter than our hormones (ha).
I hurt my knee playing softball. I wrapped it up and continued to play. (I never said I was smart) The injury was a torn MCL. The knee under ‘normal’ circumstances was unstable. I could ‘technically’ walk it off but was certainly unstable (both my knee and my mindset). If you can walk it off but it is unstable, then walking it off isn’t the answer.
Types of Injuries
Knee injuries are almost always something you do not want to walk off. Think of all the ligaments and tendons that are crisscrossing your knee cap to keep you stable. You want to keep those tendons as strong as possible.
Ankle injuries are painful as anyone who has even casually rolled their ankle can tell you. The question is can you walk off this injury or is it time to give it a rest? Did you hear a pop when you rolled the ankle? That’s not good. A sprained ankle can be managed with elevation and ICE and HEAT. Ligaments torn or pulled in the ankle are not something you want to walk off.
Back injuries should never be walked off. Do not mess with your back. Walking off a back injury is almost impossible anyway, at least walking straight up. If you cannot stand straight head straight to your nearest health practitioner. You can’t elevate back pain, how are you going to hold your back higher than your heart?
Understandably, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder injuries are the easiest to walk off (unless you are the Black Knight in a Monty Python sketch). But should you? The same logic applies, how is your mobility? Are you still able to text comfortably? Is there notably swelling? Icing your wrist, shoulder or elbow could be the answer. But if the pain is consistently getting worse, walking it off means walking to your health practitioner to find the answer. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a real thing and really painful.
Wrapping it Up
Resting is a relative term. You will still need to practice maintenance on your ailing body part. Don’t minimize the injury. You need your body and it needs you to be aware of its strains pulls and breaks. If it is just a strain and you have swelling ICE first and after the swelling subsides then apply heat.
But if the injury has consistent pain that isn’t getting any better walk it off to your nearest health practitioner.