On Being Injured

“Its not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change” Charles Darwin

Here’s a little secret; everyone gets injured. Everyone. That person on the start line every weekend? They get injuries. Your gym instructor that is 11 out of 10 on the energy dial all the time? They get injured. Your sports therapist/physiotherapist? They suffer the same as you. With the best will and practices in the world, injuries, aches and pains are one of life’s inevitabilities, alongside death and taxes.

How we deal with injuries, however, is in many ways unique to the individual, with their own aims, goals and commitment levels. Sure, initially it can be frustrating, particularly if you have an event, or a holiday on the near horizon but the key is to take an interest in your rehabilitation. Pain & rehabilitation are not your enemy; this is not wasted time. Pain is our friend – it’s our body trying to protect us; our first line defence system without which we would not survive. Congenital analgesia is a condition where sufferers can not feel pain, and which often leads to a reduced life expectancy. So – whilst it is all relative – knee pain isn’t actually that bad.

When injured, the sensitivity level of this defence system is turned right up. Your rehabilitation is designed to start turning this dial down, by graded exposure to what your nervous system has deemed as perceived (but not always actual) threat. See, those exercises and movements prescribed aren’t always just about stretching, or strengthening.

It can feel lonely, as your friends and colleagues continue with their gym routine, classes, or training, and in some cases there can be cases of comorbidities setting in, such as depression or anxiety, even at a low level. In A Leg To Stand On, Dr Oliver Sacks describes his injury as a “fearful sense of … aloneness”; that he “could not hurry — could only hope”. In his autobiography, Back From The Brink, ex-professional footballer Paul McGrath says of being injured that “the first thing you lose is the capacity to be hopeful”, and that you “crave the open spaces of training…the aggression, even..”.

But getting back training after injury can be hard physically, and also mentally. We should never underestimate the power of apprehension. Avoidance can be damaging in the long term, as we psychologically build what was once a daily occurrence into a terrifying prospect. Gardening changes from a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, to something which could lead to your back “going” again. Your regular running route seems full of threat. Those weights look far more menacing than they did pre-injury.

Your hardest opponent is your own mind; research shows that a happy you will be able to recover from injury far quicker than a stressed you – and a positive attitude goes a long way, as seen in this paper, The Relationship Between Expectations and Outcomes in Surgery for Sciatica, which found that “More patients with favorable expectations….. had good outcomes than patients with unfavorable expectations” (Ref 1). So smile as you go ( 🙂 ); trust in the process; commit to the process; reap the rewards.

Rehabilitation is a road that is rarely linear; we start with what you can do today – post injury – and we end with what you could do before your injury. It can be slow, it can be arduous, and there will almost definitely be setbacks. This is completely normal.

In ‘Legacy’, by James Kerr, the author discusses 4 stages of change, which ties in nicely with rehabilitation;

A Case for Change This is often a need for change; something is causing your discomfort, or pain. If we want this pain to go, we need to change, or address, ‘something’.

A Compelling Picture of the Future To do what we love without the repercussions of pain. People will often say they are prepared to “do anything” to get back training, or be pain free. To paraphrase Nietzsche, “He who has a why, can bear almost any how”.

A Sustained Capability to Change This is where we create an environment that is empowering, engaging and fun. When Rehabs fun, Rehab gets done.

A Credible Plan to Execute Alongside your rehabilitation therapist, this is the development and deployment of a self-reflective, self-adjusting plan that is safe, and graded, taking you from injured, to where you were pre-injury.

So, yes, the secrets out; we ALL get injured.

And here’s another secret; it’s ok. We are robust and adaptable creatures. To go back to Oliver Sacks, “We would have no idea of the resources which exist in potentia, if we did not see them called forth as needed.”

For more information contact Dan@DC-InjuryClinic.co.uk

REFERENCES

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496858/

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