To Your Health
July, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 07)
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3. Improve endurance. When we think of rehab, most people think of lifting more weights and getting stronger. However, in some cases, your success in rehab has more to do with doing something at less intensity, but improving your ability to do it over and over again.

For example, building up endurance is probably one of the most important goals in the initial stages for those with back pain. Concentrate more on doing a higher repetition of exercises with frequent breaks in between, rather than trying to do one thing for a longer period of time. When we overdo it, we fatigue. When we fatigue, we start doing things the wrong way, ruining all the improvements we've made with our rehab and risking re-injury.

4. Regain balance. Regardless of whether you have ankle, knee, or low back pain, or even headaches, balance training is very important. You can train your body by lifting more, or by stretching until you can wrap your legs behind your head. But what happens when you get off balance and your back goes out? What happens when your knee is strong when you walk straight, but it can't handle a quick change in direction to the side? That's why balance training is just as important as any of the other rehab strategies. The basic balance progression involves doing things on stable surfaces first and then moving to unstable surfaces.

5. Develop strength. This is probably the most popular goal of all rehab programs. However, make sure you build up your strength while always staying within weight ranges that do not elicit pain. The "no pain, no gain" mentality should be abandoned. Also remember to work on balance and flexibility with strength, not just by itself. Most strengthening exercises begin with isometric exercises - an example is pushing your arm against a wall. Isometric exercises should always be performed in angles at which there is no pain. Once you can do the isometric exercises at all angles, then you can progress to using elastic bands, light weights, vibration platforms, and overall weight training.

6. Functional training. Remember, this just means practicing activities you did every day prior to the injury. For workers, this means practicing how to lift, or even how to sit properly if your job is sedentary. For athletes, this means practicing the movements of your sports. All too often, people forget everything they've learned and overdo it in trying to get back to where they used to be. It's a typical response because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Be patient! Practicing the movements repetitively with lighter loads is more important. Remember, build up endurance with proper form first. Functional exercises are similar to balance exercises in that you need to stress your newly rehabbed body in all directions and all positions; in so doing, you'll be confident that you can go back to your normal activities of daily life and not worry about re-injuring yourself.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines to increase your knowledge of the various elements involved in successful rehab. Which exercises will work for you will depend on the precise injury and a comprehensive screening process by your doctor. Hopefully, you now understand some of the goals of rehabilitation and can better appreciate the steps necessary to get on the road to recovery. Remember, always consult with your doctor whenever you suffer an injury and before beginning any rehabilitation process.