So you’ve stuck to your New Years resolution to take better care of yourself. You’re feeling great, hitting your goals, and are finally seeing results…. then you get struck with an illness! Whether it is a cold, flu, or another illness, this will definitely put a thorn in your routine. But should you stop exercising when sick? As physical therapists we get this question on a regular basis during the winter flu season. And it is not just a simple yes or no answer unfortunately. But that is not necessarily all bad news depending on your symptoms.
The GOOD news
Exercise has shown to keep people healthy during the flu season. Researchers are even finding out that with a mild cold or flu exercising can actually help with your recovery! If you are experiencing cold-like symptoms without a fever or difficulty breathing, it can be safe to work out as long as you feel up to it. If you do decide to work out, you should continue to listen to your body. You may be more fatigued as your body is also working hard at fighting the illness. So take it easy and make it a light day. Don’t push yourself past what your body is telling you it can handle.
The BAD news
When you are sick the symptoms you are experiencing are due to your body fighting off the illness. But your body is also telling you what you should and should not do to help it. If your symptoms are so severe that you cannot get out of bed in the morning, you should likely stay in bed. You need to know your limits and listen to your body. If you feel up to exercising but then feel worse after 20 minutes into your workout then you should decrease the intensity or stop altogether. In a recent CNNhealth.com article they cite the common “neck rule.” The neck rule states that if your symptoms are above the neck (runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, sinus pressure, headache) then you should be good to go. Bu,t if your symptoms are below the neck as with body aches, fever, or chest congestion, then you will likely want to sit this one out and save your energy for fighting the illness. In the early period of an illness you are also more likely to be contagious. If hitting the gym is your workout, then you also need to make sure you are not spreading your illness to others. Make sure you are showing consideration to others by not putting them in the same situation you are in.
Everyone needs a break and an illness may just be your body telling you the time is right for yours. If you are still questioning whether or not you should hit the gym after reading this then perhaps it’s best you play it safe and take a day off. If you are truly dedicated then you will bounce back once you feel better and continue on with your healthy lifestyle. Better to play it safe and live to fight another day than to delay your recovery or risk injury from working out when your body is telling you to stop.
Michael Phillip, PT
Synergy Manual Physical Therapy – South Office
With the growth of the Internet, we have at our fingertips an enormous, and almost inconceivable, amount of knowledge. There is no question that the Internet cannot answer! However, this does not mean that every answer it give us is true. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do take what’s posted on the web as fact and make decisions base on the wrong or misguided information. Even the most reputable sources can get it wrong. So when searching the internet for answers, especially when it come to your health, remember that it is “User Beware!” However, there are more reputable sources that if and when you do seek health information, I’d rather have you looking at then a random article or a post on answers.com, for example. Here are some of the recommended sources for the most accurate and up-to-date health care information.
- WebMD.com – A great resource for health related information and tools. They have expert medical practitioners on their staff that review all the published content and take extra measure to make sure they are providing credible information.
- MedlinePlus.com – Through its extensive research database, Medline provides the most up-to-date information on most health care topics with easy to use navigation tools, videos, illustrations, and dictionary of medical terms.
- MayoClinic.org – Is a website that produces content provided by more than 3,300 physicians, scientists and researchers with ties to the world renown Mayo Clinic.
- Synergympt.com – Okay, so we had to put our website on this list! After all we provide a great resources through our website, newsletters, and blogs on orthopedic injuries, women’s health issues, health tips, and more. Check it out, we think you will be impressed!
As physical therapists we often have patients that will self-diagnosis or even self-treat due to health care information that they found online, even from these reputable sources. At times the patients have been correct and have performed the right stretches or exercises, but there are even more cases of patients who have either delayed their healing or made things worse by becoming their own doctor or physical therapist. Just because you researched shoulder pain from one of these websites and came up with a diagnosis that fits your symptoms does not mean the diagnosis you think you have is the actual diagnosis. For example, if you have a torn shoulder muscle but through your research think you have tendonitis, which can present very similar to a tear, you could be doing the wrong treatments and making things worse. So use this information with a grain of salt and please do not disregard the value of a physical exam and diagnosis by a licensed medical professional. If you do suffer from an injury your best bet is to stop by and see one of our physical therapists today. At our clinics you will get a personalized examination and diagnosis that will most often lead you to a quicker recovery. Call to schedule an appointment today!
Michael Phillip, PT
Synergy Manual Physical Therapy – South Office
You’re in great physical shape, you’ve been spending the last couple months ramping up your training for the next big race….. and then it happens. It can start off as a small twinge of pain in your knee or as a soreness in your hips which you blow it off and keep running. Then a month goes by and it’s a little more nagging, and your frustration is growing. Now you are even closer to the race and become worried that it will affect your time. What do you do, keep training or stop?
If you have been competing for any length of time you have likely heard this scenario from fellow competitors or even have gone through this in the past yourself. So what do you do now? An injury whether big or small can not only cause physical stress but also mental stress as it may cause you to stop or slow your training for that next race or event that you have worked so hard towards. But if you push through an injury you may be doing yourself more long-term harm than good as pushing through an injury will often lead your mechanics to change and cause a breakdown of other structures. Deep down you know you should see a doctor or physical therapist to help you, but like many you may be in denial that it is a problem, you don’t want to be told to stop training, and you have high hopes that you can just “run it off.” But in reality you are just putting off the problem and likely growing it into a bigger problem in the long run.
In some scenarios it may be a simple fix like running on a different surface or the other side of the road temporarily, changing your footwear, or improving your flexibility or strength in your hips. Runner’s World posted an article in 2011 titled “The Big 7 Body Breakdowns” that reviewed the top 7 running injuries and how you should approach them. As this article points out in most cases where the pain stops you during a run or the pain is progressively getting worse, you need to seek the advice and treatment of a physical therapist before it turns into something serious.
It is better to get it taken care of as a small injury and possible only having to decrease your training a couple weeks early on than pushing through it and it potentially ruining your racing season. At Synergy Manual Physical Therapy in Colorado Springs, we focus not only on your pain but also on finding out what is the movement or mechanical fault is that began the breakdown in the first place. Call or stop in today to set up an appointment and create a new, pain-free, beginning to your training. We look forward to meeting you!
– Synergy Physical Therapy Team
North Office (map)
4105 Briargate Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
South Office (map)
600 South 21st Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904