“Recurrent soft-tissue injuries occur when a tissue sustains more damage than it can heal over a period of time,” Matthews said. “The ultimate cause of all repetitive soft tissue injuries is simply doing too much too soon.”
So, to avoid a recurring injury, you need to take a measured approach to exercise and sports. No more the weekend warrior approach where you’re inactive all week and instead run 15 miles (24 kilometers) on the weekend.
“Moderation is key,” said orthopedic physical therapist Scott Cheatham, professor of kinesiology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
It’s also important to slowly get your body used to a particular activity. “The only proven way to reduce your risk of recurrent soft tissue injuries is to gradually increase exercise volume and intensity over time,” Matthews said.
A good rule of thumb: don’t increase your training volume by more than 10% per week. Give your body a break every four to eight weeks by significantly reducing the volume and intensity of your training. “This ‘three steps forward, one step back’ approach takes discipline and isn’t always fun,” Matthews said, “but it’s the best way to make your body more resilient and durable.”
Diet, stress, sleep can also increase the risk
“If the muscles in your core aren’t strong enough to withstand hours of exercise, their strength will drop, then spinal stability will drop, and then your nerves and soft tissues will become irritated,” she said. “It’s a domino effect.”
However, these exercises must be done correctly, or ironically, they could cause a soft injury. Therefore, consult a professional before performing them yourself to ensure proper form. This can be your physical therapist, chiropractor, personal trainer or fitness trainer.
Take injuries seriously
If you get hurt despite your best precautions, take it seriously. “Even when people realize they have a soft-tissue injury, they often get on with their program and whistle past the graveyard hoping that things will get better over time,” Matthews said. “Most of the time it gets progressively worse until it hurts so much that the person just can’t exercise because of the pain.”
Rather than ignore this muscle or ligament strain, consult a qualified healthcare professional and expect to spend anywhere from a few weeks to a month or more recovering, depending on the severity of the injury, your age and other factors. Most importantly, you complete your entire rehabilitation process so another injury doesn’t happen, Cheatham said. Don’t stop the minute you’re feeling a little better.
A positive attitude is also key to a speedy recovery. “If you think you’re not getting better, you’re not going to get better. If you think you’re going to hurt yourself again, you’re going to hurt yourself again,” Maranan said. “It starts with your mindset, then religiously do your home exercises and your post-workout recovery routine.” And remember, stay mindful to stay true to form.