Returning to activity

Returning to work, activity or sport is often where it goes wrong for people.

When in pain, muscle can waste by between 8-12% a week!! This means less strength, power and endurance and less support for joints and other tissue. This can also happen in the opposite arm and leg as we don’t use these as we normally would when in pain.

So unless rehabilitation has been carried out to get our muscles and joints stronger it is possible the pain or injury will reoccur if we try to do exactly what we were doing prior to the pain or injury as our condition has reduced.

So we need to build back up slowly.

The start of this is the exercises and advice on this website and many of the pages will have sent you here.

As well as building the strength up we need to return to the activity and build that up. It is normal and expected that there will be some discomfort on return. This doesn’t mean stop, as we need to do the activity recondition So what we do is be guided by our pain.

I have to give a nod to Tom Goom, The Running Physio who developed this picture.0 = no pain. 10 = worse pain imaginable.Return to activity

Returning to activity
0-3 is our safe zone, keep going, you are fine.

4-5 is ok, but think about how you may want to change what you are doing to bring yourself back into the 0-3 section, i.e. changing the time, intensity, modifying the activity.

6-10 stop, rest, ice or heat, go back to the activity at a later time but at a much lower intensity.

We want to monitor these symptoms during, after and 24 hours after and use them to guide our progress.

See our return to running guide for runners.

If it is work you are returning to, the best place to start is to not go off at all. See if your job is modifiable or talk to your boss or occupational health about how the role can be changed so that you can continue going in. The reason being, there is good evidence to show that people recover much quicker from pain and injury when they continue their normal activities.

If this is not possible and you do have time off, then on your return speak to your boss or occupational health about a graded return to work, this can involve a slightly different role for an interim period, different hours, or equipment that may help.

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