The #1 Thing to Do to Keep an Injury from Turning Into Chronic Pain
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
The main point here is this: MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE
This is a phrase we repeat a lot around 901PT because it's a key concept that we continually explain to our patients. One of the most common scenarios we see with our patients is where an injury (this can be a sprain or something more serious-sounding) 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 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 noticeable...at first...
Most of us aren't quite sure what's going on and we're scared we're going to reinjure ourselves and we're not sure what we can or can't do, so we just avoid any movement that hurts.
1. 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. These are injuries that we are highly trained in dealing with, and we can also help you understand what they actually mean and what they don't mean in terms of your movement.
2. Another complicating factor is that 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 does not 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. Or maybe someone told you "never bend forward" or to avoid a certain motion 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.
If after an ankle sprain, you don't ease back into moving that ankle in all the directions that it 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. And if we leave it there, 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 longterm problems.
There are very specific types of movement that you need that will help your body heal more quickly and prevent longterm effects, and this is what we at 901PT are experts in.
Movement is Medicine is a great general rule, but when you're dealing with acute or nagging pain, you need 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, and we can help you fully recover and move on with your life. If you're wondering why your back pain is still lingering months after an injury or how to move past shoulder pain and back into overhead movement, 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.