The statistics of people who suffer from recurrent injuries are unfortunately high. A study had shown that hamstring strains (common running injury) is a recurrent injury in 84% of people who suffer from the injury… That’s a lot!
Now there are usually many factors that lead to injury in the first place and this is the same for recurrent injuries. The human body is really complex so to be dogmatic about what causes what for all situations and bodies is an incredibly limited paradigm. We usually need to break things down into categories and talk about things in isolation for the purpose of education. If we always educated people and spoke of things in big tapestries (although more accurate), it is very unlikely that any real value would be received when sharing information and only the absolute ‘gurus’ of the body would be able to converse. I suppose the ultimate goal is to understand topics (anatomy, biomechanics, therapy ect…) at first as isolated islands and once a decent level of knowledge is acquired, then how these topics relate and intertwine with one another can be appreciated and better understood. You could say that we can start to develop the connective tissue that connects the understanding of different topics together. This process (in my humble opinion) takes decades of practice, hard work and study – the path to mastery.
So this blog is highlighting a small piece that is part of bigger puzzle to why people suffer from recurrent injuries, definitely not the whole story. We can review other parts of the story for other blogs/videos in the future…
Phew long intro today, anyway let’s talk about muscle strength!
Once human tissue is damaged, the tissue healing process begins immediately. This healing process (that even the specialist admit they know little about) can be explained as 4 overlapping phases…
These phases deserve there own 1000 page essay but we’re just going to acknowledge them here. The duration of the healing process depends on the location of the injury and how severe the injury is. Some areas of the body will heal at different speeds due to their blood supply. What I find incredibly interesting about how humans heal is the end product of new tissue from the healing process is never quite as strong as the original tissue. We don’t really know why (as this rule doesn’t apply to all animals) but the quality collagen fibres do have something to do with this.
Type 1 collagen fibres (which non damaged tissue has a lot of) has more cross bridges than type 3 collagen fibres. Having lots cross bridges makes the tissue more resilient to tensile forces. The more resilient your body is to tensile forces (in a variety of directions) the less likely you are to encounter injury (that’s the theory). Type 3 fibres is what your body produces at the end phase of the tissue healing process. Ideally your body starts to convert the type 3 collagen fibres into type 1 fibres to strengthen the tissue. Although the body does this, the end product just isn’t as tough as it used to be. Weak tissue is a good candidate for injury.
So how do we toughen up tissue that just isn’t cutting it?
Strength Work! Lot’s Of STRENGTH WORK!
The reality is that stress is good for you! A certain dosage of stress makes you stronger. If you don’t have evolutionary pressure then there is no need for there to be a change. Most change comes about because an organism needs to meet the new challenges of it’s ever changing environment. If the organism can’t adapt and embrace the evolutionary pressure of life, it’s chances of surviving and thriving are incredibly slim. Humans are just like any other organism! Stress and well being are inseparable, you need a certain dosage of stress to be healthy.
Strength Training is artificially creating evolutionary pressure. Having to move against resistance inspires strong tissue. A practical example of this is focusing on eccentric (lengthening) muscle work in the gym/studio. When a muscle or group of muscles are ready to be trained after injury, the purpose is to put resistance on the movements those muscles power in order to make the tissue more resilient to tensile forces. Strength training typically is an overlooked component in physical rehabilitation and so this can be one of the reasons people experience re-injury later.
If you’re working with a physical therapist / exercise coach, make sure there is a solid strength program in place that is progressive and relevant to your goals and needs.
I really enjoyed writing this blog so thanks for reading guys, apologies if it got too ‘sciency’ in places. Have a great day 🙂
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