What is Tissue Adaptation and How Does It Relate to Me?
To My Injury & Recovery?
To my daily activities… sport and training practices?
Tissue adaptation is a gradual process through which your body adapts to different activities (at home, work, or recreationally). It can refer to any tissue of the body: bone, muscle, tendon, fascia, and nerve.
- Daily activities can include cleaning, driving, cooking, sleeping or work duties.
- Sport and training can be anything from lifting weights, walking and running, to team sports.
With increase in any activity, you are actively loading your body’s tissues. When you gradually increase loading of tissues, their ability to withstand greater activity with minimal risk of injury also increases.
Factors to consider when tissue loading:
- loading frequency e.g. how often?
- loading intensity e.g. how much resistance/weight are you using?
- loading duration e.g. for how long?
- type of loading e.g. what is the activity?
Tissue injury can be defined as a failure to adapt to tissue stressors.
When you make drastic changes to your daily or training routines – even if it’s a temporary change – it can strain your tissues. Because they have not yet had the chance to adapt to this new stressor this can result in injury. e.g. tendinitis, muscle strain/tear, ligament sprain/tear, plantar fasciitis, etc.
Your muscles and tissues should be strong and resilient enough to withstand more than your daily activities. Otherwise, if you go outside of your norm even for a short period of time, it could lead to injury.
If I am injured, do I need to stop my activity?
Not necessarily. However, you may have to modify the activity during your recovery process.
While rest is important to allow acute inflammation to subside, gradually strengthening and stretching (i.e. loading) the injured tissue is the best way to make it resilient enough to get back to your normal routine.
This does not mean pushing through pain as this may sometimes re-aggravate or worsen the injury. A rule of thumb for not flaring up your injury is:
- is your pain level 4/10 or less? (0 = no pain, 10 = “crying in emergency room”)
- is the discomfort achy and sore (not sharp and shooting)?
- does the pain stay the same (or decreases) throughout the activity?
- Lastly, 24 hours later is it feeling the same or better?
If you answered “no” to some of the above, then you should modify the activity to avoid continued re-aggravation:
- Take frequent microbreaks
- Space out the activity throughout the day instead of trying to get everything done at once
- Avoid repetitive movements with the injured joint
- Modify the environment, e.g. if prolonged standing is aggravating, move your work to a table where you can sit. If overhead movements are aggravating, temporarily move items to a lower level where they are easier to reach.
- Do not push into pain if sharp or more than 4/10
What does this mean for my training regimen?
- Change only one thing at a time (e.g. frequency of training, intensity of training, duration of training, type of training). This also applies to changes in equipment (e.g. running outdoors vs on a treadmill, changing footwear).
- Allow at least one week (or several training days) before implementing a new change or progression.
- If you are training and you have a busy week – more than usual stress at work, appointments or other sporting activities planned, etc. then avoid implementing new changes / progressions to your routine that week.
- Do not try to hammer out the same amount of workout in less days if you are busy.
- If you are recovering from an injury and can continue the activity without flaring it up, then do so. If you cannot, try modifying the activity (decrease frequency, intensity, duration and take microbreaks).
If you modified the aggravating activity and the injury is still flaring up, then temporarily take a break from the activity and see your physio for other self-management strategies and help with recovery!
Kristina Todorova, PT