1. Pamper yourself.
If you’re the kind of person who goes to the gym regularly, you most likely have some kind of ache and pain. These can intensify the harder you push yourself. I’m guilty of being this person, and it sucks. It’s difficult to convince yourself to slow down and recover when all you want to do is gain.
When you recognize you have an injury, you should allow yourself to be the biggest baby alive. Pamper yourself. Hell, go get a pedicure if that’s what it takes.
You need to rest, ice if you’re swollen, heat if you’re not, stretch, and stretch. I’m a big fan of hot baths. If I had a steam-room in my house I’d probably use that, too. A good technique is to spend a couple of hours really devoted to this process. I know it’s hard to sit on the sidelines drinking and watching your friends kick homeruns, but guess what? You’re drinking. It can’t be all that bad.
2. Foam rolling (for muscle injuries).
On Kickball MVP’s days away from playing, he’s in the gym walking on the treadmill and doing his bench-presses and curls. Surprisingly this week he hasn’t hurt himself at the game! He just happened to get adventurous and venture over to the squat rack. I’m just as shocked as you, but let’s observe.
Look at that; his hip’s bothering him. He’s stopping. As he should!
When you have a tight muscle, or are coming back from a muscle that was tweaked in some way, use a foam roller to really loosen it up. There are techniques to using a foam roller; if you’re trying to loosen a muscle, you need to roll in the direction the fibers are stretching. If you’re trying to tighten a muscle, you go against the direction of the fibers. It can be pretty comprehensive if you’re unsure of anatomical structures, so take a look at this video for a short tutorial. (Note: Jeff Cavaliere is an accomplished physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach.)
3. Progressive de-loading.
If you notice an injury but it’s not debilitating (just annoying), begin progressively de-loading stress from that muscle group. An example of a common problem is Illiotibial band soreness. This can cause hip and/or knee pain and can come from trauma or repetitive stress. This would be a good time to slowly decrease volume and load that involves this muscle group (running, jumping, squatting) until the pain as subsided. During this time, follow the above rules as well. Once you’ve reached the point of the pain being minimal or completely gone, you can begin the next step.
4. Progressive loading.
No, you will not be performing at the same level you were prior to your injury. Yes, this sucks.
There are benefits to this though; you can train at submaximal load and performance and hurt frequently, or you can take a slight speed-bump and eradicate the problem. If anything, you’ll learn about your body in the process.
Now that you’re properly rested and can jump back in, remember to slowly increase volume and load. You want to avoid maximal efforts until you can trust the injured area is reliable.
If for whatever reason you feel you’ve exhausted all at-home efforts and the pain lasts longer than a few days, you should seek either a physiotherapist or MD for diagnosis. Depending on the pain, it can just be an annoyance and they’ll prescribe stuff to move you along, or can very well be a problem that requires correction. A tweak on the kickball field probably isn’t something to stress over, but a shoulder, knee, or joint injury can be the difference between league MVP status and ridin’ the pine… for the rest of your life.