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The #1 Thing to Do to Keep an Injury from Turning Into Chronic Pain

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

This is a phrase we repeat a lot around our Memphis physical therapy clinic because it's a key concept that we continually explain to our patients.

It's also the key to recovering from injury and maintaining healthy and pain-free movement long-term.

One of the most common scenarios our physical therapists see is when an injury doesn't ever fully resolve and turns into long-term chronic pain.

These are situations where we could have easily nipped this problem in the bud by starting a healthy and respectful movement program right from the beginning, and our patients could have avoided years of pain and problems.

What typically happens is that after an injury, the body loses normal motion in that place.

Take, for example, an ankle sprain. (This can also occur in the neck, the back, shoulder, etc...)

After that sprain, the ankle hurts! It's sensitive and swollen, and the natural impulse is to avoid any movement that causes pain.

The problem comes when that motion is never intentionally regained because then the body gets locked into an unhealthy pattern of movement where it just stops moving fully in that area.

This lack of movement may be a lot or maybe just a little and not that first...

Fear plays a major role in pain and recovery.

Most people aren't quite sure what's going on and are scared that they'll reinjure themselves. Because of this fear, they're not sure what they should or shouldn't do, so they just avoid any movement that hurts.

Complicating Factors:

1. Believing that your body is fragile. Maybe a healthcare practitioner has told you that you have a pinched nerve, a bulging disc, or a stress fracture... these are scary-sounding diagnoses that often cause people to believe that their bodies are fragile and on the verge of injury at any time.

The physical therapists at 901PT are highly trained in dealing with these types of injuries, and we can also help you understand what they actually mean and what they don't mean in terms of your movement.

2. Too much rest. Many people are given the advice to just "go home and rest" which is NOT helpful.

Yes, there is an element of rest that is needed for healing, but rest doesn't mean not moving the injured area. A good physical therapist can show you the best ways to give the injured area the kind of rest it needs while still giving it an appropriate amount of movement for optimal healing.

3. Avoiding certain movements. We see many patients in our Memphis clinic who have been told things like "never bend forward" or to avoid a certain motion or exercise for fear of reinjury.

Having a fear-based approach and avoiding certain movements for the rest of your life not only fails to protect you from reinjury, but it's also actually making future pain & injury more likely by failing to strengthen the areas that need to be made more resilient.

After an injury or sprain, there are very specific movements that need to happen in order to lead to a healthy recovery. We need to keep gently working on the motion in order to gradually recover original mobility. If we don't intentionally work on it, we may never regain that motion.

woman doing a trap bar deadlift under supervision of physical therapist

If after an injury, you don't ease back into moving in all the directions you used to move, you may never regain full mobility. You may naturally regain a little bit more motion, but if you don't intentionally work on it, you can easily lose 20% movement. That may not sound like much, but everything in the body is connected.

If we aren't intentional, that decreased mobility can lead to some chronic issues in other parts of the body.

Although there are exceptions, for MOST injuries, movement is what will help you get over it the quickest. Trying to overly protect the sore area or "resting" too much will often backfire and not only cause your pain to last longer, but it will set you up for more long-term problems.

There are very specific types of movement that you need that will help your body heal more quickly and prevent long-term effects, and this is what the physical therapists at 901PT are experts in.

man lifting a barbell overhead exercise

"Movement is Medicine" is a great general rule, but when you're dealing with acute or nagging pain, you need expert guidance about which kinds of movement your body needs. We often see people who have been Googling their symptoms and following advice from YouTube, and their pain continues for much, much longer than it should have because they're doing the WRONG type of movements!

Injuries and pain are a part of life, but your body isn't fragile.

We can help you fully recover and move on with your life.

If you're wondering why you're still dealing with issues that should have been resolved a long time ago, we can help.

The first step is to let us know what's going on. We'd love to hear your story and answer all of your questions about how we can help.


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