Coping with chronic pain and injury
For an athlete, or for anyone that loves being active, and making the most of every second of each day, “rest” is almost a foreign activity. But we do need it. For some though rest would consist of yoga, or going for a light stroll, or a leisurely swim. The sad thing is these all still require movement. When you’re suffering from an injury these light activities are not always in our ability to be accessed. So what then? I recently fell from a horse and have compressed my back, I spent a week pretty much unable to move from bed, and even changing positions in bed has been difficult. I have my own business so you’d think this would be a great opportunity to catch up on some work. The thing is we don’t give our bodies enough credit, and when it needs to heal your entire self, mind and body is going to be craving that rest and I found myself unable to think or concentrate.
It’s not just for my business though, for me to move it’s what makes me… me. It is a born right as a human to be mobile and when you can’t do all the things you love, well you can feel a little lost, a little frustrated and kind of angry.
I was asked to write something to motivate those who do suffer from injury or chronic pain but the truth is when that question was asked I laughed and thought yeah when I figure that out maybe then I’ll write something. Because the truth is; “it sucks.”
However I do have some learning’s to share. As someone who studies the body I’ve been fascinated by the process of healing.
Your breath a natural occurrence un yet we do little to no training to perfect it, and are often doing it wrong. By adopting habits which sacrifice our posture, like sitting or standing in a hunched position and shoulders rolled in, we can close the space of our chest to open and transport our oxygen rich blood to where it is needed in the body. As well as be able to remove toxins and CO2 to help heal from injury or stress. Every move I make as I change position or try to stand my breath is playing a massive role to support me. Not only in function is it assisting but internally.
By training your breath we can learn to release a muscle that has been stretched and tensed, to reduce spasms, inflammation and residual pain. This is called a stretch reflex or Myostatic reflex. In an easy way to understand what this is follow the link
So when you’re unable to move your body I highly recommend tuning into your breath, try meditation to relax your mind, and then inevitably your body and the area in which you feel pain. Try downloading the Smiling Minds app for some quick and easy to follow meditations.
I’ve never felt so tired, I’m usually full of energy, so this is very strange to need so much sleep each day, but sleeping is our body’s way to replenish, restore and heal. Releasing hormones that are essential for reducing inflammation and repairing tissue damage. Sleep will also help in cognitive function, so our brains ability to react and think. It will help to build and repair muscles and of course restore energy levels.
- Slow and steady wins the race
Going back to basics, the fundamentals of muscle development and learning. It’s all baby steps, we can’t support an external weight before we can support our own bodies. We cannot strengthen until we can find length and mobility, and we cannot be flexible until we can stabilize. Everything plays a role. Crawl before you walk, build strength through your breath, then through your core stabilizers. Work on your balance and coordination. Think of yourself as a baby learning a new skill. This is where you need to go back to. As difficult as it is, if we don’t go back to the basic patterns that have developed how we move as adults then we will miss important skills and could develop patterns that cause reoccurring injuries or hinder our healing process.
Follow the link to see my crawling demonstration and how this can help
- Stay strong
Your body is strong, it may feel weak but it’s working hard to get better, and so you need to stay mentally strong. Reach out for support from friends and family and don’t be afraid to show vulnerability.
- Chill out
Use healing remedies, such as taking a bath or going to a natural hot spring. If you’re living on the Mornington Peninsula. Our own hot springs is well worth the visit with natural minerals to ease pain, bring comfort, relaxation and assist in the healing. Read more here
Read a book, energize your mind instead of your body. Or if like me the pain is affecting your concentration listen to podcasts.
- Get outside
As I’ve written in the past, getting fresh air can do wonders for our mental health and elevating our mood and energy levels, so step outside to create an oasis for yourself to mend.
- Eat well
Feeling average can often make you want to continue this self-pity and turn to foods that are probably not the most healthy option. I always say listen to your body, and you know what chocolate can bring some comfort but like all foods in moderation! Try to make a healthy smoothie, cup of tea, and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and protein to assist in muscle repair and provide you with more energy.
Time heals right? So be patient, celebrate those small steps in recovery and doing the time to rest and recover properly will benefit you in the long term.
Caution using any kind of instability can be dangerous in the early stages of recovery so please seek advice from your doctor or fitness professional before attempting these exercises.