When you are preparing for an event and you know you aren't quite in the right condition to be pushing any new limits, should you push on through or just give up on the attempt? Many times, we find challenges in preparation for events that we have been training for, sometimes for months, only to find ourselves unable to produce even a semblance of previous achievements or easy hit outs!
Listening to your body is all important. Managing injury is as much a part of the performance as is the regular and regimented training that goes into preparing for an event months in advance. SO what do you do when you do find yourself not being able to complete a basic training run and you have 3 weeks left before the event?
Acute injury management is a matter of isolating negative impact. If there is pain, it means something is wrong. Being able to compete without pain should be the main goal. Preventing further damage is the next point to address. An assessment is needed to understand how important the event may be and whether you will do further damage if you continue.
Inflammation is the danger. Inflammation means the injury is raw - that there is blood and damage to tissues and that further action is going to negatively affect the injury. No amount of work by a professional is going to prevent the tissues/joint from being adversly affected by further activity. Inflammation also prevents any effective functioning of the area as wastage byproducts from contraction are not removed and nutrients are not being efficiently delivered.
Pain is the next key. If there is pain, you are not 100%. Pain is telling you there is 'something wrong with the action'. The amount of pain is all important in assessment. Aching pain is usually associated with a fatigue of muscle/supportive tissue/joint action whereby the condition of the muscles acting on the joint is failing quickly and inducing pain to prevent further prolonged action. This 'conditioning' pain is sometimes able to be alleviated by training and conditioning the affected joints/muscles. ie - making them stronger/better to be able to endure the load placed upon them.
Sharp or acute pain (which I like to call 'wincing pain') is a surefire sign that there is real danger in continuing activity. Sharp pain is telling you there is immediate risk of further injury as the joint/tissue is unable to perform the action. Usually, sharp pain would indicate an acute tear/problem with the muscles/ligaments/bones involved. This type of pain should be considered SERIOUSLY and give cause to considering whether or not the immediate actions should be curtailed or assessed.
Muscular fatigue is an indicator of poor conditioning. If you are able to perform an action for a period of time, then as you continue, you find that you are unable to continue the same action, there is a reasonable assumption that conditioning is the main culprit and perhaps not acute injury is to blame. Cramping and muscular stiffness is a result of trying to do too much for too prolonged a period where the body is unable to continue. This type of pain can be associated with dietary influences or poor preparation for an event or possibly incomplete or poor technique. There is real risk of developing further injury from theses conditions but they do not necessarily result in an acute condition. Recovering from acute injury means often these conditions become apparent. As muscles that have not been used are now being asked to perform. This requires more exercise based or 'active' recovery to enable the muscles or joints to be able to perform the actions repeatedly without adverse effect. Essentially, this type of pain can be the type of pain to work through to achieve the desired result.
Medications such as Tiger Balm/Deep Heat/Paracetamol/Nurofen can certainly disguise or eradicate pain. Knowing when the use of these topical medications is beneficial or merely disguising something more sinister is important. The use of anti-inflammatory agents or topical heat creams should be monitored and questioned. If you need a cream to complete a normal training run, then perhaps you need to address the reason behind why the cream is needed, as opposed to relying on it to complete the desired event. I worked once for a company that had a policy -'if you can't complete the warm up - you can't perform'. Perhaps one of the most basic and yet appropriate measures of where your injury is at and whether you should be competing.
Essentially, nothing beats event preparation more than knowing what your body is capable of. Being able to 'pitch' at or near the level that is required 'on the day' is important to know that you are able to compete/perform at the desired level. For certain situations this is easier in some cases than others. It is difficult to replicate a week of high level intensity such as a tennis tournamenst as opposed to competing a singular marathon. Replicating a marathon is easier than replicating 7 matches of 3 hours over 8 days.
Having solid and regular sports massage treatments can assist with keeping an eye on your body and its soft tissue conditions as a therapist should pick up on irregularities before they become acute. Tightness in areas that are not yet presenting themselves are a way of identifying possible technical or impact orientated issues before they result in an acute injury. Being aware of what 'type' of pain you have and whether or not 'to push through pain or stop' is important to understand. Pain is a lever. A reason for being aware or a reason to stop. Know when your body is telling you to stop, or that you need to address something is important to ensure you can compete on the day.
Let pain be your guide. If it hurts, stop doing it. If it is painful, address it. Don't let something that can be fixed keep you 'off the track'.