Use It or Lose It: Returning to Normal Life After an Injury

posted May 20, 2010 3:13 PM by Bryan Kolozsi   [ updated May 20, 2010 3:14 PM ]

Muscle, ligament and joint injuries typically require some degree of rest as part of the initial plan for care. Rest takes the strain off the injured area, prevents further damage and allows the swelling to settle down. However, while rest is important initially, you can get too much of a good thing. Rest for prolonged periods of time can cause several problems. Bone begins to lose calcium. After two weeks, muscles begin to lose 3 percent of their strength per day. Inactivity decreases circulation, slowing the healing process. Depression and anxiety can build with each day of disability.

The bottom line is the quicker you get back to your normal routine, the better. This does not mean you have to go straight back to your full schedule of duties right away. Working with limitations and light duties at first, and then gradually increasing your workload, are good options. Returning to normal activity with restrictions helps avoid the ill effects of prolonged rest without overdoing it.

Avoiding weakness upon return to activities is a key reason rehabilitative exercises are used more frequently in today's health care plans. Currently, if time off is necessary, doctors aim for three to 14 days of rest. Returning to work with duty restrictions usually follows. This general timeline is important for arm and hand injuries, as well as back injuries. The same types of tissues are involved in each of these areas.

It is a good idea to keep the above in mind if you are injured. An even better idea, of course, is to avoid being injured in the first place. Stay physically fit and follow safety rules to help prevent injuries at home and on the job. Remember, always consult with your doctor following an injury to determine severity and appropriate course of action.