The biggest predictor of future injury, is previous injury.Injury and pain is not a new phenomenon to those that perform. A recent finding from surveys we’ve undertaken highlighted that all performers have spent significant periods of their careers performing with pain. An important finding as when it comes to previous injury we usually only consider the pains which make us actually miss shows for a prolonged period as injuries, and not those that limit our performance, even if they hang around for months on end.
More often than not you work through discomfort or pain until it goes away or gets to a point where it stops you from doing what you love, then you consider yourself injured. Highlighting the impact of this aspect of pain would be useful as it may put into perspective some things that you may feel or experience, and ignite a thought process of how can you own this in your physicality. So, how can previous injury affect your future performance? and why does doing some specific exercises targeting specific areas go a long way to keeping you out of pain and to improve your performance? Firstly it’s important to acknowledge that everyones journey to where they are now is unique to them, their experiences and as such their bodies will respond uniquely. That’s important as there is no one size fits all, even for those with exactly the same injury history.
What is very clear, is that a history of pain or injury can lead to inhibition which describes the bodys clever neurological adaptation to reduce the neural drive into a muscles, and therefore reduces its ability to create force. This might happen when a muscle (or another tissue in the body) is structurally compromised/injured or if we’re creating compensatory patterns to avoid loading a certain tissue. The old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is particular poignant here. As you use that/those specific muscle(s) to a lesser degree and others come in to help, a compensatory pattern can be created. The term compensation is generally overused, in my opinion, however it is definitely appropriate in this instance. Reduced neural drive = Reduced use of the muscle resulting in muscle atrophy (muscle getting smaller). These can be short term compensations or longer term, if the issue persists and your nervous system decides it’s new way of creating movement is there to stay even if it's a far less efficient or effective way of creating force and movement.
Why is this significant? In my experience, the muscles that most commonly affected by inhibition are those that have a tendency to create stability or decelerate/absorb force. Which are incredibly important characteristics for movement efficiency and reducing the chance the pain and injury. If you can control movement and absorb force effectively then it can improve your chances to maintain a pain free experience and perform in a manner closer to your potential.
Another interesting point (at least I think so), is the muscles commonly effected by inhibition are often stretched as they give you the feedback or sense that they are tight, and stretching can often give you short term relief so it feels like you’re giving your body what it needs. This feeling of tightness is commonly a little deceiving as the sensation you are feeling is often a clever way for your body to protect itself against excessive ranges of motion that it can’t control due to the muscle itself being weak. How clever is that? If this is truly the driver of your tightness, then some sensible, targeted strength work is often the most effective way of reducing the tight sensation you may be feeling and have a more lasting impact on that feeling as well as actually improving your range. Think of the term strengthen to lengthen, as that sums it up very concisely.
With this in mind, I suppose your questions are going to be about how you may address this in yourself? Firstly, understanding the above may help to put any odd persistent tightness into context and give you an idea about a different approach to reducing the tightness via considered, specific strengthening. That can be a powerful tool in helping you move forwards and reduce the chance of your previous injury or pain, contributing to future injury or pain.
Thanks for taking the time to read this