How To Take Responsibility For Your Injuries And Recover Faster
Do you have a stubborn injury that just refuses to heal?
Have you ever had an injury that took forever to heal? Or maybe it never really healed properly?
Or worse, maybe you put in the work to heal your injury, but it still didn't help... Maybe you sought out a reputable physio, or chiro, or another treatment professional and faithfully did your rehab homework. Have you ever been told that you'd be healed in 4 sessions, but 8 sessions later nothing was better? Have you ever then found another therapist who had a new treatment plan, but the same thing happened?
I've been there. Back in 2009 I had a left shoulder injury. My shoulder hurt when I put it overhead and it just kept getting worse. I saw multiple professionals, spent money and time on it, but none of the treatment really took. I dealt with this injury for about a year before it improved. It wasn't fun. Actually, it was incredibly frustrating. I wanted to get into the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, but my hurt shoulder totally sidelined me.
And I know that I was luckier than most. I was still able to stay active. I ran, biked, lifted, exercised, and played soccer. I could still do most of my favourite things and it wasn't a huge problem day to day. Not everyone is so fortunate.
Even though I've seen much worse injuries, for me, this was one of the most discouraging times I've faced in my life in the gym. I trusted my treatment professionals. I was doing everything I was supposed to. And I just couldn't heal.
WHY taking responsibility for your injuries can be THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
So what actually helped? The most important lesson I've learned about dealing with injury is that I needed to changed my attitude. Instead of relying 100% on therapists, I took responsibility for my injury.
This is the most important lesson I've learned about dealing with injury over the last 10 years of coaching.
Obviously the treatment I was getting wasn't enough. While I continued to seek new experts who could help, I also dug in and did my own research. I tested out numerous drills, stretches, and strengthening techniques. Through trial and error I found a few things that seems to help.
I kept doing those religiously while looking for the next step. Sometimes I'd stumble on something that seemed to work on my own. Other times, a therapist would give me an insight that I could incorporate into what I was doing.
I started taking the lead in the rehabilitation process. I spent more time on it. I tried more things. That's what I mean by 'taking responsibility for your injuries'.
how to take responsibility for your injuries to improve your healing time... with the help of a therapist
Sometimes injuries heal fast. But if the problem persists or is difficult to heal, there's only so much your therapist can do.
I don't say this to knock any therapists - these professionals are indispensable to rehabilitation. What they can (and should) do is point you in the right treatment direction. They should give you nuggets of insight into why your injury occurred so you can avoid getting hurt again in the future, as well as into what needs to be done to maximize recovery. The really good ones (like in any profession, excellence is hard to find) will anticipate problems, set expectations, and guide you through the process to minimize the amount of think you need to do. But the human body is complex and sometimes you'll have to struggle through some failed attempts to get to a real solution.
For example, let's say your therapist gives you certain exercises to practice at home. You need to know where you should feel each drill, how to you know if it's working (or not working), and then practice and practice until you know it inside and out. When you practice it enough, you should discover a few tricks to modify the exercise so that it "feels right." Shift your hips a little. Breath deeper. Active this muscle a little more. Whatever needs to be done. The subtle details really matter.
Most times, therapists don't fix you - not exactly. There's no magical adjustment they can perform to make everything better. You fix yourself. You take their guidance. You practice. You do your homework. You make adjustments and figure out what works best. And over time you and your therapist work together to zero in on an increasingly effective formula.
By learning this lesson the hard way, I was able to return to weightlifting and compete for several years pain free. I just wished someone had been there to give me that guidance earlier.
A FINAL Note ABOUT BEING SMART when it comes to rehabilitation
I can't address the topic of injuries without saying this: taking responsibility for your injuries also means listening to your body before you have any major malfunctions. If you feel pain (not stiffness from working out, but real pain), please recognise that as a problem. While a competitive athletes with big goals on the line may choose to ignore pain and play on, if you exercise for lifestyle and longevity, it makes no sense to adopt this attitude. For anyone in this camp, working out to the point of injury is 100% contradictory to your goals, which are to feel great and be able to perform the activities you enjoy at a high level for as long as possible.
Acknowledging that you have a problem can be hard. I've been there. When you're training, making progress and in a good routine, the last thing you want is for your body to hold you back. It doesn't seem fair. So you tell yourself things like "after I warm-up, it feels decent", or "it's not that serious", or "hopefully it will just go away as I get stronger." But eventually, more damage is done and a relatively small problem becomes a bigger problem. It can take months or years for you to feel the effects of injuries like these, but that's exactly what's happening. Stressing damaged tissues or practicing faulty movement patterns (especially under load and/or fatigue) will get you eventually.
I've seen too many people in the gym brush off joint pain as a regular part of exercising. Please don't do that.
Take responsibility for what's happening and figure out the problem. Do your best to fix it and adjust your training to emphasize areas that are pain free.