3 Lessons Learned While Rehabbing
1. It’s A LOT of work to rehab your body and there is no easy way to do it.
Whether you are dealing with an injury that happened because of a sudden forceful event like the one I’ve described, or whether you’re dealing with an injury that has progressively gotten worse over time, this applies to you.
Early on I made mental agreement with the idea that I was going to be “on call” 24-7 doing exercises and stretches, using topicals, taking supplements and doing everything I knew to do to protect my body from additional stress that would perpetuate the injury. I knew that I couldn’t have it any other way.
Walking in to it with this perspective kept me from impatience and frustration. I knew that I needed to commit to 2, 3, 4 months or longer of making this a top, top priority. Thankfully pain is a great reminder to make stuff like this a priority.
This is the necessary first step for all of us. We all must commit to a process that involves doing things proactively, consistently, strategically, and for a long enough duration to make a significant difference. Otherwise we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we are really trying to get better. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but it’s the truth.
Too often I get the sense that people think rehabbing should be easy. Maybe it’s because other things that are “broken” are easy to “fix.” (I dislike the use of those words when applied to the body, but I use them for communications sake.) What do we do when a problem arises with any other “machine” in our life? We usually call someone and pay them to “fix” it. Well, sadly, that doesn’t work with the body.
Your body, unlike mechanical and electrical items, is alive. Things that are alive are changing constantly. Things that are constantly changing cannot be “fixed” because fixing denotes a degree of permanence that isn’t available. This reality is why we shouldn’t try to fix our injuries. What we should do instead, is continually work to enhance the health and strength of our tissues through various proven ways. Although this isn’t “easy”, by doing this, our tissues will heal and stay well.
2. Little things matter.
Most people don’t realize this, but even one wrong move, one wrong step, one wrong way of bending or twisting, one especially stressful physical outing, etc, can be enough to cause harm to some of your tissues. This is often what people experience when they are rehabbing, whether under my care or another way. They feel pretty good doing most things and then something happens that tweaks the tissue and they begin to hurt again.
Although these incidents are impossible to completely avoid, we can substantially speed up our healing rate by learning to manage our mechanics really well. That way, these events are less frequent and less debilitating. As I typed that I re-positioned my head so I wasn’t looking down at the screen. Even I need reminders sometimes.
This is much of what I mean by being on call 24-7. Yes, you will not need to be doing exercises 24-7, but you will need to be managing what your body parts do and keeping the stress on them within tolerable lines. That way you will heal faster and avoid setbacks. This is why I work with my clients to help educate them in this area.
On the same note, little things that you do to help yourself also matter.
Life doesn’t stop because you are in pain and we often need to maintain the same pace of life while working towards our recovery. This is what it was like for me. I still had work, family and personal responsibilities that I didn’t want to give up, so I had to work all my rehab around them. The 2 or 3 minutes I would have while waiting for a client or on a break didn’t go to waste. The unexpected evening in or the extra 10-15 minutes in the morning didn’t go to waste either. I took advantage of these opportunities to “sow some seed” into my body and I found that even doing small amounts of exercises during these times really helped me a lot.
It’s common for me now to give people homework they can do while in the car, on the couch, standing in lines or during any number of other times where there is a break in the action. When people do it, it tends to work out well for them too.
3. Pain is your friend.
Can you imagine what life would be like without pain? You would do all kinds of damage to yourself and you’d never know it. You’d strain a muscle, keep using it, and eventually tear it. You’d fracture a bone, keep putting weight on it, and eventually break it in half. You’d put your hand on a hot stove and not know it until you smelled your burning flesh. You could even unknowingly bite through your entire tongue and bleed to death. Having no pain would be so dangerous that you’d have to be watched constantly by someone simply for your own safety.
Well, although it goes against the idea that pain is bad and should be “killed”, it is pain that is that friend who is keeping constant watch over you. It alerts you to any trauma that occurs within your body and it attempts to keep us from doing things that can aggravate and further traumatize the tissue. This is one reason why pain killers are dangerous. Because they work.
Now, although we won’t always know exactly why we hurt more doing one thing than another or why we hurt more one day than another, the nature of pain is still the same. It is a good thing, meant to keep us from causing ourselves harm.
During my rehab, I used pain as an indicator of what was happening inside my body. I refused to take synthetic pain killers and I used the pain as a guide to what my body was OK with me doing that day. If it said it didn’t want to do something, I listened and obeyed. I didn’t try to mask it so I could go on with life as usual, because I knew life as usual might prolong my injury. This helped me tremendously.
So there you go, 3 things I learned through rehabbing. Honestly, I could probably write 40 things and even make these 3 much more descriptive, but I figured this would be a good start. If you have other questions, feel free to reach out to me via the contact methods on this website.