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When Did “Just Rest” Become a Viable Recommendation?

Posted Sep 02 2010 6:14am

I suppose this blog title is more of a rhetorical statement than an actual question, but I’m going to write it anyway.

Just about every week, I get someone who comes to Cressey Performance - either as a new client, or as a one-time consultation from out of town - and they have some issue that is bugging them to the point that they opted to see a doctor about it.  This doctor may have been a general practitioner or an actual sports orthopedist.  In many cases, the response from this medical professional is the same “Just rest.”

“It hurts when you lift? Then stop lifting.”

Huh?  When did COMPLETE rest because a viable recommendation?

In case folks haven’t noticed, 64% of Americans are overweight or obese.  Even if rest was the absolute key to getting healthy, telling them to not move is like not seeing the forest through the trees.  Your bum knee will feel better, but you’ll have a heart attack at age 43 because you’re 379 pounds.

obese-boy

Oh, and nevermind the fact that exercise generally improves sleep quality, sexual function, mood, and bowel function.  I’m not going to lie: I would rather have an achy lower back than be fat, chronically ill, sleep-deprived, impotent, angry, and constipated.

But you know what?  The good news is that you can still exercise and avoid all these issues - regardless of symptoms.  I can honestly say that in my entire career, I’ve never come across a single case who couldn’t find some way to stay active.

I’ve trained clients in back braces.

I’ve trained clients on crutches.

ginn-crutches

I’ve trained clients with poison ivy.

I’ve trained clients less than a week post-surgery.

I’ve trained a client with a punctured lung.

And, when I  did an internship in clinical exercise physiology, we trained pulmonary rehab patients in spite of the fact that they often had interruptions during their sessions to cough up phlegm for 2-3 minutes at a time.

All over the world, people are using exercise to rehabilitate themselves from strokes, heart attacks, spinal cord injuries - you name it.

However, Joe Average who sleeps on his shoulder funny and wakes up with a little niggle needs complete rest and enough NSAIDs to make John Daly’s liver cringe.

Sorry, but you’re going to need to be on crutches, in a back brace, with poison ivy and a punctured lung to get my sympathy.  And, you’re sure as heck not going to get it if you’re just “really sore” from a previous exercise session.  Seriously, dude?

I don’t care what your issue is: “just rest” is almost never the answer (a concussion would be an exception, FYI).  When a health care practitioner says it, it’s because he/she either a) doesn’t have the time, intelligence, or network to be able to set you up for a situation where you can benefit from exercise or b) doesn’t think you have enough self control to approach exercise in a fashion that doesn’t make it more harm than good.

There is almost always something you can do to get better and maintain a training effect.  While adequate rest for injured tissues is certainly part of the equation, it is just one piece in a more complex puzzle that almost always still affords people the benefits of exercise.

A great resource along these lines with respect to shoulders is our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set .  If you haven’t checked it out already, I’d highly recommend it.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover


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