Working out with an injury is never fun nor easy, and if not done right, you can end up hurting yourself even more. At twenty two years old I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease. Which we are all probably going to get at some point, usually around 60 but my body hates me so here we are. The best way to describe this disease, is by saying, “ouch, painful”. The disease in my case is debilitating at times and it occurs when your bones rub against one another, causing pain and stiffness.
Learning how to workout with this disease has been interesting to say the least, but having had worked out with injuries in the past due to sports, has helped me along the way. I would like to preface that I am not a doctor, nor a trainer and I advise that you consult with a specialist if you are looking to workout with an injury, however this is what has helped me:
- Listen to your body
I cannot stress this enough… Please listen to your body, because it will tell you when something is wrong. When I was first diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease, my doctor told me I should reframe from running and weight lifting and it was devastating. As a former sprinter, I love running and it is truly my happy place. I ignored his warning slightly in disbelief and also because I thought I was invincible. I was sorely mistaken, my back gave out every time and I’d spend a week in agonizing pain.
So I began to listen to my doctor, but also I started listening to my body. Instead of running, I started with walking, and every now and then I’ll try out a light jog. If I felt a pinch in my back or a muscle pulling awkwardly, then I knew to stop. Somedays my body allows me to jog and others not so much. The same goes for when I do core, if my back starts to sting or if I feel that same pulling feeling, I immediately stop. Your body will tell you what it can and can’t do, you just have to listen.
2. Be adaptable
Different exercises not only have different effects on your body, but they also have different impacts, so it is important to know how to do them correctly. For instance, I personally struggle to squat. For some reason I can’t get the technique down enough to do a weighted squat. If done wrong, given my diagnosis, I can get really hurt. So now, I have found exercises that have a lower impact on my back, such as air squats or squats with resistance bands. I pay attention to my form, with each squat instead of focusing on holding the weight up.
3. Take it easy
Unless you plan on getting plastic surgery, your fitness goals can be compared to a marathon. It may take some time, but you will reach your goals eventually; one day at a time. So, remember to take it easy. I often get frustrated when my back gives out because I feel as though I am now behind when it comes to my goals and to working out. When I would get into that type of mindset, I would push my body and my back couldn’t handle it. I would try to run or lift weights, thinking it would be okay when in return it actually prolonged my recovery.
4. Talk to an expert
Life is not over when you are suffering from an injury or a disability, so don’t settle. Seek help from an expert that can instruct you on how you can stay physically healthy, safely. You can find a ton of information on google about working out when injured or with a disability, but not every resource is reliable. I highly recommend talking to a doctor or a skilled trainer, that specializes in assisting injured individuals. It’s okay to ask for help.
I hope this helps you, and please feel free to comment below if you have any further questions; or if you would like a part 2 to this blog post. I can share with you a ton of exercises that work for me, and for my back.