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Originally published Friday, April 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM

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Let your injury be your guide to working out

It's hard to generalize about injuries, because healing time depends on how fit you are and how active you remain after the injury. But it's wise to follow a few basics.

Special to The Seattle Times

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I WAS THINKING about the wall when it happened. Specifically, I was thinking about how not to fall off an indoor-rock-climbing wall at a Seattle gym. My hip did a little pop as I lifted my foot and placed it on the next climbing hold, but I ignored it. I put all my weight onto my foot; the sudden pain in my groin shocked me.

I made it to the top, then climbed a couple more routes, but the pain would not go away. That night, it worsened. In the morning, the pain was excruciating. I limped all day.

I spent most of the next day icing and moping. Rock climbing was one of my fitness goals for 2013, and suddenly, it was agony to get off the couch; I could barely walk.

I also was in the midst of an intro series at my neighborhood CrossFit. Stubborn, I went two days after hurting myself. I didn't want to fall behind and decided I could watch. As my fellow students lifted medicine balls, I was itching to jump in. I didn't. As cranky as I was about my injury, I wanted it to heal. I had no intention of pushing myself and creating a long-term problem.

My groin hurt so much I couldn't do much yoga, either. CrossFit turned out to be my short-term salvation. There, I could work my upper body. When everyone else did sprints and lunges, I did push-ups. One evening, I did 80. Take that, injury.

A trainer also encouraged me to use a foam roller to soften the muscles around my injury, which helped right away.

People get injured all the time. The real learning comes from how you handle the aftermath. Elite athletes sometimes will push through pain that should slow them down, experts say.

It's hard to generalize about injuries, because healing time depends on how fit you are and how active you remain after the injury. But for sharp pain from strains or sprains, Bellevue chiropractor Adam Tetuan says it's wise to follow a few basics:

Once you get injured, a week off from any activity is a good start. Ice and rest the injured area, but try to keep it moving — without making the pain worse — so blood circulates to heal and prevent scar tissue from forming. If it starts to improve within a week, it most likely will be OK, Tetuan says. But by four weeks, "if it's still fairly persistent, it's time to do something," like go to a doctor. See a doctor earlier than that if you notice discoloration, abnormal swelling or numbness.

Once it feels better, ease back into activity, he advises.

I took a week off before doing upper-body work. Two weeks later, I tried yoga, modifying some poses. Three weeks post-injury, and things were almost back to normal, though I backed off whenever I felt a twinge. I used my foam roller daily.

Part of me got frustrated. It was hard not to be active five times a week. I envied other people's healthy bodies. I realized how much I relied on my body to be strong, and wondered if my injury would heal.

But I've come around. I found if I treat my body well, it can bounce back. I feel fortunate that I am healing. I also have a vast new well of empathy for people with injuries. Plus, when all else fails, I can always do push-ups.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: papercraneyoga@gmail.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.

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