I Just Tweaked Something, Now What?
Does this situation sound familiar?
You've injured or hurt yourself doing something, potentially a seemingly basic task, like reaching down to pick something up or climbing a set of stairs. You begin to catastrophize your pain, raising your feelings of fear and now you're hyper-vigilant about anything that might aggravate the area. You start to fear movement itself and avoid things you would otherwise do without thought.
Especially if you were previously active at the gym, through sport, or just in your activities of daily living, this can lead to depression through disuse and disability.
And this feedback loop continues to feed off of itself, with further avoidance leading to further de-training and disability. This loop is all too common and we've all gone through it at one time or another. Here's how to combat it in order to aid not only your physical recovery but your mental recovery too.
Step 1 - Reassurance
Reassure yourself that it's going to be okay and that you will get better. I know it's a basic statement, but it's a powerful one. Those that believe they're going to get better have been proven to get better faster and more effectively.
As devastating as an ACL tear can be. The body is actually fully capable of healing a full tear on its own without surgery. The human body is incredibly good at healing, given the chance.
Pain is also heavily influenced by our expectations. If we expect to be hurt, feel pain, or feel stiff, then chances are we will feel those things. Don't be too entitled to your feelings and understand that more goes into our feelings than what's happening in our bodies.
Step 2 - Education
Understand that the body is not like a machine that breaks down with wear and tear. Injury happens when we exceed the tolerance of what our bodies can handle. But with the right dosage, this same stress is what allows our bodies to adapt and become stronger. Know that training and movement are what's going to get you back to doing what you want without fear of pain or re-aggravation.
Step 3 - Exposure
Find out what you CAN do and focus on that.
The most motivating and helpful thing you can do when injured is to still be able to perform some kind of activity and see some level of progress in your strength and symptoms.
Regress your movements, decrease load and range of motion as necessary, and find an entry point from which you can still train. This helps your body recover and come back stronger than ever as opposed to avoiding movement entirely.
Bed rest only does so much.
Ultimately, exposure to a movement is what helps us build tolerance to it and the more tolerance and strength you can build in a muscle or joint, the more injury resistance it becomes.
So don't lose hope regardless of your situation. Stick to strategies like these and trust the process.
To your good health,