Pain is normally a good indicator of an injury or as a way to tell you to stop doing what you’re doing. But a lot of the time, especially when returning from muscle tears, we can get lured into a false sense of security and go back to sport/activity too early. So, are you right to go back to activity once your pain is gone or can you continue to binge-watch Netflix?
But I got no pain, surely I have recovered!
Just because you have no pain it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have recovered from your injury. Most of the re-injuries occur in this period where you have no pain, but you have yet re-gained your muscle strength. For a lot of injuries, the pain goes away before the injury has healed and this can cause a lot of people to fall into the trap of believing that they are ready to return to sport.
Why am I at a higher risk of re-injury if I’m not in any pain?
As mentioned before for a lot of injuries the pain goes away before the injury heals. Once the pain is not there you don’t have that feedback from your body anymore that somethings not right, and you proceed to go back to high-intensity activity before your body is ready. A lot of the time the pain can disappear when you have only recovered 80-90% of your pre-injury function, and your muscles/joints are not yet able to handle a return to intense activity. Then before you know it you have injured yourself again and have to spend longer on the sideline.
How long after having no pain should I wait before going back to playing sport then?
This is a tough question because it really depends on what type of injury you had, how dedicated you were to your rehab program and a range of other factors. As a rule of thumb, we would like to see the strength in the injured muscle return to “better than pre-injury level”. It is always best however to consult closely with your Exercise Physiologist who will do regular assessments with you to determine how your rehabilitation is progressing. From these assessments they will be able to give you the green light, or not, to go back to playing sport.