When you’re not used to exercising certain parts of the body, you may find they become inflamed or swell when you put pressure on them. There are degrees of inflammation ranging from heavy swelling with constant pain down to a mild swelling and tenderness that dissipates after a few warm ups, but, whatever the degree, you are likely to experience at least some swelling in the course of rehabilitation. Try to manage the extent and volume of the work you do to ensure the swelling never becomes too severe.
Where does the swelling come from?
Movement compensations, and avoiding using movements, due to muscle imbalances, weaknesses and other problems, may have led you to either consciously or unconsciously avoid placing parts of your body under stress. This could include muscles, bones, tendons – any structure that can feel pain. Without using these structures, they will become weak. This means that when you consciously make an effort to use them again, using exercises that directly activate them, the body will react by protecting them with pain and the inflammation response.
How to avoid inflammation?
Getting the right balance of tolerable stress and improvements versus excessive stress that produces more harm than good is a process of trial and error. There’s always an element of risk involved in activating under-used body parts, so whatever exercises you are doing, take great care not only to exercise correct form, but not to push yourself too far.
If you suffer a great deal of pain or inflammation when doing rehabilitation exercises, it’s your body’s way of telling you you’ve gone too far. This is likely to occur when you attempt to push the range of motion of an exercise too far – in this case flexibility and speed are your biggest concerns, not necessarily the weights you attempt to lift or the number of reps you do. To be safe, start your exercises slowly, with a range of motion you are in full control of – potentially a shortened range of motion to begin with. By gradually pushing yourself further, you can safely learn your limits and build up to the full range of motion without pain.
For example, most exercises can be commenced from an easy start point – such as in sissy squats where we start with the legs straight – a position where there is next to no load on the quadriceps. But as we start hinging at the knees, the exercise becomes progressively harder: more and more load is placed through the quadriceps with every extra degree of knee bend. My initial range on this exercise was so short that I wasn’t moving very far at all. That is the safest place to start – then built on it slowly and patiently, managing the level of stress you gradually accommodate on these currently weak structures.