Now, you have three objectives:
1. Limit the damage.
2. Promote speedy recovery.
3. Prevent future injuries.
Needless to say, this goes for all kinds of injuries - knees, elbows, back, or whatever.
1. Limit The Damage
Stop training immediately. If you think that you can "tough it out" for the sake of not missing a workout, you're way off. By continuing to train you're only making the injury worse, probably prolonging the recovery time by weeks. Calculate how many workouts you'd miss from, say 3 extra weeks of recovery, and rack those weights pronto.
Now you have to assess the damage. This is tricky, so my advice is to have a medical professional have a look your injury unless you're SURE about how bad it is, and what should be done. In the case of more advanced areas, like back, I'd recommend a checkup regardless.
In many cases you can improve the situation with ice and/or taping. This depends on the type of injury, of course, but taping a wrist or and ankle for support can be a good idea if you're not badly injured but need to make it home (driving with a foot the size of a soccer ball can be kind of tough). You might get less than ideal healing time (you should keep the foot in the air for a good while), but at least it's better than getting into a car accident because you pressed the wrong pedal.
2. Promote Speedy Recovery
Like I mentioned above, there are ways to decrease swelling, and as a general rule, it's always better to keep the swelling down than let it balloon freely. You're likely to come back much quicker if you kept the swelling at bay, so if you're interested in learning more about this, I suggest getting a book on injury taping. There are many factors you need to consider, and takes a little while to learn, but at least you'll be prepared if you or your training partner runs out of luck.
Another thing that is easily confused is the rest period. You should ALWAYS rest the injured muscle and/or joint before picking up light to moderate training. If you're 2 weeks away from full healing - sure, go ahead and do a couple of light sets to get the blood flowing. But the day after the injury is NOT justified no matter what. Only when you're feeling definite improvement should you even consider light training, and that means light. There's a time and a place to push the limits, and this ain't it.
That is not to say that you have to stay out of the gym altogether. With an elbow-injury, you can still do legs, abs, and lower back, even delts if you use a suitable machine. Use the time to work on your weaknesses. Give those calves an extra beating, now that you have all the time in the world to spare.
3. Prevent Future Injuries
Allow full and complete healing before even thinking about loading on the heavy weights again. We often tend to overestimate ourselves, so you could be only days away from being home free when you accidentally pull the same muscle again, setting you back to square one again.
Take a look at your training routine. What caused this injury? Did your ego just override your common sense this time? Or did you use sloppy form? Perhaps you routinely train your body unevenly, and now ended up with an unbalanced body? There can be a nasty truth hiding somewhere here, but it's essential that you nip it in the bud before it causes a second injury, or perhaps tears the same muscle again. If you have a problem finding the cause, talk to a local personal trainer.
In some cases it can be something as simple as bad shoes (makes you unstable when squatting) or ill-fitting clothes (temps you to cheat on the movement to avoid discomfort). The reasons can be many, but you have to pinpoint what it is and figure out a way to fix the problem. Or you'll probably be a frequent visitor to injury-land. Get your own Bodybuilding.com clothing, click here!