Playing through the pain: Things to know

If you play a sport or follow an exercise routine, injuries are possible. You may be tempted to keep playing through the pain. But that can lead to further problems down the road, especially if you don’t follow your doctor’s advice.

A broken bone can take anywhere from two months to an entire year to fully heal, depending on the bone and the patient. It’s crucial to allow time for that healing process.

Would you rather give yourself six weeks off to perform at 100 percent, or suffer for many months or the rest of your life because your injury didn’t heal properly?  Your level of activity post-injury depends on its severity. Here’s a general guide to help.

Sprains and strains

Mild sprains and strains can be treated quickly, and exercise can continue. If your pain or symptoms associated with a sprain persist for more than a few weeks, seek medical attention. Warning signs of a more severe injury include significant bruising, swelling or significant dysfunction of a joint or body part.

Broken toes

Broken toes, too, can vary in terms of treatment. An injured big toe often needs treatment, while just taping the fourth or fifth toe provides support, protection and helps realign joints. If you have a deformity, such as a toe pointing the wrong way, seek medical attention. Any potential broken bone, even a small one, needs medical attention.

Back injuries

If you have back pain and/or a back injury, start by focusing on core stability exercises and flexibility.  You should work with a physical therapist for a while before returning to unsupervised exercise. Once you start exercising again, start with low-impact activities, such as the elliptical or cycling. A return to higher-impact or contact sports should happen slowly over time.  Get your doctor’s clearance first.

Modifications when you have pain

An injury doesn’t necessarily mean an end to all activity. You may be able to make modifications to your routine.

For example, if you break your leg and you can’t walk, you might still be able to swim laps with a pull buoy without pushing off the wall during turns to get a cardiovascular and upper body workout. Or, if you have a severe injury to the upper body, you might still be able to do moderate exercise using a stationary bike.

Benjamin Petre, MD, Anne Arundel Medical Center

By Benjamin Petre, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with AAMC Orthopedics. To reach his practice, call 410-268-8862.

Originally published June 26, 2017. Last updated July 22, 2019.

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