Recovering from an Injury #4

bailey_200x200The Lesson in Taking the Time It Takes

“Appearance is absolute, but reality is not that way.
Everything is interdependent, not absolute.” Dalai Lama
Taking Charge: Self-Guided Recovery

To be pain-free is often confused with being ready to pick up right where you left off. The problem is that athletic skills require a commensurate level of strength to execute without injury. Strength builds in increments. Nobody wants to start over when they graduated years ago! What you believe you can do is indeed what causes everything to change—and sometimes not for the better if the reality of an appropriate starting point is ignored.

Say, for example, you could ride a bike for more than an hour before one knee started hurting so badly you could not ride at all. You have no clue what happened or what you did that caused this problem. The first order of business is to review or rule out possible issues including, but not limited to, the following:

• Proper adjustment and fit for all gear
• Dietary cause of inflammation such as allergy or excessive sugar intake
• Joint injury requiring surgical intervention
• Muscular imbalance
• Improper technique
• Genetic predispositions and conformation factors
• Overtraining or inadequate rest
Get the help and advice necessary to make informed decisions. Talk with people who’ve been through something similar as well as professionals. Your network plays a major role in long term fitness and health. If cross training is indicated to build a better foundation, go for it. This is a pay now, or pay dearly later, life moment. Knees and shoulders are missed once they are gone.

Assuming all of the aforementioned have been either ruled out or confirmed and corrective action taken, a great plan for the first solo ride on the bike might be slowly spinning for 5 minutes in front of a mirror to watch alignment, going both forward and backward. Then a wait to see what happens. No news is good news since that means you get to do it again instead of wait even longer for new pain to go away. More is not better. It is just more. The lesson of increments means to work smarter rather than harder.

To keep moving forward is to quit while you are ahead; that means to stop on a good one instead of pushing into fatigue. Hold the belief that smart work will continue the upward trend. Use the rear view in this instance for a quick survey to establish progress and perspective. A relative progress check is a one to two-week previous comparative, and the perspective check is 2-4 months back depending on the nature of the injury. Absent pain, the finding of no progress is a red flag that indicates a consult or program revision is necessary. No more and no less.

Doing just enough is the key. Being willing to discover what just enough means for you as an individual is the tipping point of reclaiming active health.

Recovering from an Injury part #3

bailey_200x200By Guest Writer Diana Bailey

“Appearance is absolute, but reality is not that way.
Everything is interdependent, not absolute.” Dalai Lama
Taking Charge: Self Guided Recovery


At a certain point, you may choose to guide your own program. If you look to activities that are familiar, enjoyable, and easy, the results are usually okay. Let pain be your guide. If it still hurts, you really are better off getting some help or at least finding an activity that does not cause pain. When you find one, do parts of it differently so the answer (what you “should” be doing) is not immediately apparent. The change of context reduces reflexive guarding and rebuilds confidence if the challenge is appropriate. An appropriate challenge means there is no pain in the doing and none after!

High pain tolerance is not your friend when it comes to injury because it results in ignoring important warnings or overdoing. Low pain tolerance and micro-focusing on pain is not useful either. Developing an accurate pain scale is worthwhile; that means you know the difference between the discomfort that may be necessary to reclaim motion, and a warning that something is about to get serious. In the beginning, the distance between those two points, and the time to respond, is small. Moving and working slowly provides the space to back off. Enduring and ignoring are not the same as noticing and exploring.
The goal is to accurately interpret the message and respond.

Begin any activity with very short exposures. A marathon runner with over 20 years of experience once told me she begins with about a ten minute run her first time back. That idea seemed wimpy and stupid. The real lesson came from first ignoring her suggestion, and then, after another setback, trying it.

Experience teaches what direction cannot.

In the beginning, it has to feel like nothing! No pain means all gain every time. A “wait and see” attitude pays off big in early trials. The discipline to stick with a plan, and to stop before there is an issue, is far more important than any single workout.

Recovering from an Injury- part 2

bailey_200x200Recovering from an Injury-Part 2
By Diana Bailey

To continue treating the body like a machine ensures installation or removal of a few parts over time. Approaching any injury with the attitude of “let’s get this over with” means it may be over or, at the very least end quite differently than was hoped. There is no magic bullet to put this life event away. Cutting and medicating, no matter how necessary in the moment, address a symptom rather than the abiding issue. This path is understandable because the human tendency is to fix what can be seen and touched rather than what is believed. The results speak for themselves.

Absent direction from a professional, and often even in spite of it, injuries are rarely viewed as a personal reason for more accurate observation and examination of underlying mental habits. Damage to the body is not somehow separate from the decisions that caused it. To ignore, blame, justify, or rationalize this critical aspect of the injury won’t make next time not happen.

Gravity exists whether we believe it or not.
Lack of belief merely guarantees another painful outcome.

It is a curious truth that when people get beat up enough, they become willing to entertain new options. Injury is an indicator that at the very least, a review of mental habits is warranted.

The more you are able to abandon your “self” to the process, the more productively rehabilitation time will be used. Rest assured that if you hug your diagnosis, it will never let go of you first! Ignoring a diagnosis ensures other consequences, because ignoring something does not make it go away. The best use of any qualified opinion is as a place to begin rather than the final answer.

Both physical therapy and post-rehab Pilates essentially conspire to take every day motions out of context in order to restore physical ability. The movement is the same, but the reason for doing it becomes different. So, there is no fixed idea about what “should” happen. Curiosity is the root of recovery. This necessary shift in perspective, provided by varying the context, makes a place for possibilities rather than conclusions. In effect, people see and do what they could not before because their mind was too certain of the result.

Once awareness has expanded and the body learns that it can again move without pain, confidence returns along with more efficient movement. Guarding* disappears. Pain ceases to chip away at peace of mind. If you can’t find a way to move pain free, get help! There are people who can teach you how, and this is worth every penny with respect to quality of life.

Change does not have to be difficult, but it may test some limits. Great teachers can make necessary moments doable and even enjoyable. The essential ingredient is to train awareness over exercises. The moment awareness broadens, capacity shifts. A great teacher won’t ask outright for a change of belief, but you may later discover you have because it made sense to do so.
*Guarding is the body’s automatic reaction to delay or avoid pain. At first, this happens to protect the muscles and joints involved. Guarding is evidenced by restricted movements that partially or totally bypass the use of the painful area. The long term result, if the guarding remains, is an adaptive pattern that eventually causes further dysfunction and pain.