Life after an injury

Far too many people suffer with chronic pain after an injury. Achieving recovery can require education, patience, consistency and determination.

Challenges of Rehabilitation

Even minor injuries can require months of rehabilitation, and many injured people find their recovery is hampered by their insurance industry's reluctance to continue reimbursement for long-term treatment. Typically, insurance companies will only cover 6 to 10 sessions with a physical therapist. While better than nothing, these sessions typically accomplish little in the way of lasting results.

Once physical therapy has ended, injured people often face difficulty or re-injury when they're left to continue their rehabilitation on their own:

  • Depending on the age of an individual, rebuilding muscle mass can be a lengthy process, requiring a systematic progression of exercises that the average person may not be familiar with. An experienced trainer can help.
  • The human body is a master compensator. In the short term this can be a saving grace, but over time it can lead to dysfunction, and ultimately to increased disability. Correcting these imbalances should be of great priority for anyone who has become impaired by an injury. Spotting such compensation and correcting it during workouts can require a trained eye.
  • Complications often result from age and lifestyles that limit physical activity. Muscle atrophy can be clearly measured in mere weeks.

It's no wonder that even years after an injury so many people find themselves with limited or no real improvement of their original condition. Usually it's worsened due to the injured area's effect on surrounding joints and muscles.

Healthy range of motion allows for our kinetic chain, or the sum of your muscles, joints and neural components, to operate with efficiency and support for the entire body. So it must be a priority to reclaim normal function to protect yourself from long-term disability and collateral dysfunction or injury.

Steps Towards Recovery

The first rule of thumb is to start slowly with consistent daily effort. Remember, the dysfunction has become the norm that your body has adapted to. Only your patience and determination will prevail. Keeping it simple will also aid you in maintaining your routine. The goal is to regain normal function, not to become a body-builder. Basic exercises will often provide the proper muscle recruitment you need. Your Physical Therapist should provide you with clear instruction on technique and give you diagrams to assist you. You can also ask for online resources for additional exercises. When attempting any new exercise or modification, start slowly with moderation and see how your body responds. Treat your body the same way the therapist did by icing and rest for affected areas.

As mentioned before, normal range of motion should be one of your goals. This may not come right away and depending on your injury and the prognosis from your doctor, you may not fully regain this. Keep in mind their estimates are more likely conservative so don't be discouraged. Another goal or guideline to look for is body symmetry. While everyone's body is different, we still possess one of the best tools for natural alignment and movement patterns. Simply look in the mirror and see how your body moves in simple ranges of motion. Compare how it looks and feels on both sides. Work daily at creating a symmetrical shape and movement. Early stages of training may come with some levels of discomfort. Pain should be avoided as it is your body's mechanism to alert you that you've exceeded your own capacity or tolerance. Work towards movement that is free of impingement and discomfort.

Unfortunately results can be slow going and tough to measure. This paired with waning motivation can lead to a slide in performance and ultimately cause you to give up on recovery. This pitfall must be avoided at all costs. Setting goals can be an excellent way to stay on track. Remember, this is different from athletic training you may have done before. Be patient with yourself and set realistic goals.

Keys to Success

Be consistent and patient with yourself. Stay focused on small victories and apply yourself towards a daily routine of movement and exercise while maintaining a positive outlook. Your attitude, as in all things, plays a large part in your recovery. Never allow the fact that you were injured creep in and take over. By doing so you allow the injury to continue it's damage long after the fact. If you feel that you cannot motivate yourself to stay dedicated to a routine, enlisting the support of a Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer will prove to be a wise investment. Don't feel inadequate in any way, as you're not alone. Any injury can be very disruptive to one's life, and most individuals need some level of support seeing their way back to health.