Very recently I sprained my foot. I wish I could say it was doing something fun and exciting but alas…I misstepped coming off a stepstool while painting our bathroom. Needless to say not only did I hurt my foot (and my ego) but the cup of paint flew everywhere, in my hair, my eye and even in my mouth. This doesn’t count the door, the cabinet and the walls. Okay, painting done. Check!
Unexpected injuries happen more than we like. Fortunately, they don’t have to be the end of the world. (Maybe just the end of some activities for a short time.) In the past I may have just iced it, babied it, and let it go without a diagnosis. But here is what I have learned about injuries:
- Get a diagnosis. Diagnosis is key, whether it is an examination or an x-ray. It will determine the root cause of the problem and how to proceed with treatment. I have seen others who forewent a diagnosis only to end up in worse shape or in an otherwise preventable surgery.
- Follow doctor’s orders. I am a big proponent of listening to your own body and doing what you feel you can, HOWEVER, it is important to bare in mind the advice of a body specialist. They have been trained in knowing exactly how to treat an injury. If, on the other hand, your gut tells you the advice you are receiving is not aligning with your particular situation, get a second opinion.
- Be mindful of imbalances. After an injury occurs our bodies are quick to make adjustments. This is simultaneously good and bad. After I hurt my foot, I naturally adjusted my gait to keep pressure off the injury. This may have been good for my foot but a day later I noticed my opposing hip feeling tension and soreness. I am sure you have seen someone with a lower body injury trying to walk? Without asking you know right away something was injured. Their gait is disproportionate. Other areas of their body are taking over causing tightness, soreness or even tears in tissues. This is why it is very common, post healing the injured area of the body, to have pain in another area from imbalances. Depending on your injury this may or may not be avoided. Body awareness, body work such as massage therapy or body rolling and/or physical therapy is necessary in maintaining good alignment not only for the injured areas but for the compensating areas as well. This will make for a shorter healing time overall.
- Don’t be afraid to move. It is very common to avoid moving when something hurts. So we sit around and wait for the injured area to heal. Have you noticed how much harder it is to move once immobilized for a time period? Depending on the length of the immobilization, atrophy can occur making it harder to move. This we are familiar. But, did you know sleeping eight hours can already begin the gluing process, let alone not moving several days or weeks after an injury? Do you ever wonder why it feels so good to stretch? It’s because it helps to recirculate blood and fluids around the tissues and melt the tightness in the body. When we do not move for long periods we get “fuzz.” This is actually tough connective tissue that forms between the muscle fibers. When the muscles are not moved they get stiffer and glue us down. This is why it is so much harder to move when we haven’t in a while. And this is why a diagnosis is SO important. If you are able (and allowed) to move, even if it hurts a little, DO IT! This doesn’t mean crying while walking to the fridge and back, but make sure to do what you can. Once I received my diagnosis I knew it would be okay to move my foot. In fact, with a sprain movement is recommended for healing. Plus, I find the more I move, the less pain I have over time. Now, that doesn’t mean I am running marathons or doing Cross-Fit but I alternate between icing, resting, moving and incorporating non-impact exercises such as Essentrics®.
If you are not at all squimish about the body I highly recommend Dr. Hedley’s “Fuzz Speech,” which will clarify my point.
- Avoid injuries in the first place. Listen to your body, plan ahead and use common sense. When all else fails, refer to 1-4 😉
Here are some things to remember when dealing with an injury:
*Ice for Inflammation, Heat for Healing. Once the inflammation is gone, you can use heat to bring healing blood flow to the area. Alternating between ice and heat is also a good option.
*Elevate the injury above the heart to reduce swelling.
* Put yourself first for a while if possible! Get others to help and wait on you!
Best wishes to remain injury free!
Feature image by: Mitchell Griest on Unsplash