A few weeks ago my wife and I joined a host of other health professionals as we attended a wellness retreat in Virginia. What was different about this event was that we had the privilege of serving and answering questions of military members who were overcoming wellness obstacles in one form or another. A question that repeatedly arose in various forms was this: “How do I reintegrate positive health, fitness and wellness practices after an injury?”
I realized that it’s not just our brave military men and women that have this question. Many of us have suffered some form of injury and for some time, it may have prevented us from reaching a health and fitness goal. Here, I’ll provide some of the basic steps required to get you past your obstacle and well on your way to your health and fitness goals.
- Have a professional help you determine your limitations. Many of us have a tendency to “self-diagnose” injury, thinking the problem will go away in due time. What you may not realize, however, is that the body is an integrated and intricate piece of work. No single joint, muscle, or bone can completely be isolated. An injury in one area can and will affect the surrounding areas. Do you compensate for shoulder pain by avoiding lifting your arm past a certain point? Have you considered what that does to your neck as you bend and twist your torso to reach something? Or maybe you limp around “just until the pain goes away” from that hip, knee or ankle injury. Meanwhile, the lower back and the joints of your other leg are compensating for the excess pressure and stress. The point is this – injury needs to be addressed by someone who understands the interdependencies of mobility.
- Develop a plan to work within your limitations without sacrificing other areas of your body. It took numerous ankle sprains from high school and college basketball for me to realize that physical therapy works…if you stick with it. Just as a fitness or nutrition plan are only as good their adherence, recovery is only effective if you work at it. Trust the science, even though it may not appear as though you’re making progress. Sometimes the imperceptible improvements are just what your body needs.
- Be patient. Anything worth achieving in life usually takes time and effort to attain. Work toward your goals, literally one step at a time. As I’ve said before, consistency is key, whether you’re talking fitness, nutrition, or recovery. Although your injury may have occurred quickly, the road to recovery will take more time than you’re initially willing to accept. Want to know the best predictor of injury? It’s previous injury! This means you’re more likely to re-injure yourself even worse, particularly if you jump back in the game before your body is ready. Stick with the recovery time and efforts and don’t rush back too quickly. Trust me…the rewards are worth it.
- Mentally prepare. Going back to those injuries from my early adulthood, I can recall being apprehensive and feeling fear or re-injuring myself if I pushed too hard. While caution is advised, it’s also important to trust the treatment you’ve received. Part of treatment and recovery includes creating and building that trust so you feel just as comfortable as you did before your injury. Oftentimes our brains err to the cautious side because its role is to protect the body. These feelings of apprehension, and even mental blocks that tell you that your recovery routine is too hard, are both things that can be overcome with the help of a health, fitness, or wellness professional.
Injury is not fun. Neither is recovery, however recovery is a necessary path. Be smart, seek help, stick with your plan, remain patient and be aware of the mental barriers you may also face. My hats off to my current and past military sisters and brethren. Thanks for all you do.