I bet many of you fall under this category – you injure yourself being a weekend warrior or working too hard (checking your Facebook posts in a slumped position at your desk – yes, we’ve seen you all!) and tell yourself it will all be ok. It aches but it’s not severe. You take it easy for a few days, re-assure yourself that pain is normal and try to get on with life. You’ve got stuff to do, you don’t have time to worry about this ache. Sure your running has slowed or stopped, but you can still do other things, so it doesn’t matter right? You can still go to work…provided you have a few pain killers. That’s normal right?
‘Give it time, she’ll be right mate’ enters your mind. You miss out on your team sports that weekend and say it’s just a bit of a pulled muscle. Not to worry I’ll rest it until it feels better.
Suddenly it has been four weeks and you’re still in pain, not to mention more unfit, taking out shares in pain killer companies and certainly not enjoying life as much as you used to before this pain.
If you’re lucky you ask a physio or doctor friend for advice at a party on the weekend. They give you a few tips and tell you to come in that next week to see them properly. Should you go? Will this just get better with time?
Now let’s look at the anatomy behind this situation…
A muscle or tendon injury requires six weeks for healing if badly injured, after this it has repaired itself to the best of its ability. If you are not sure about having treatment during this time, you may not be giving your muscle/tendon/ligament the best chance for a strong recovery.
Whilst you are in pain you start to adopt different walking patterns and postures. These ultimately result in wear and tear, incorrect loading and eventually pain in other areas of the body (everybody remember the ‘hip bone’s connected to the knee bone’ song?)
Other muscles take more load than they have been trained for to take up the slack of the sore area(s), one side starts bearing more weight than the injured side, and muscles lose their flexibility due to you avoiding stretches as they aggravate pain.
What we have here is a bit of a vicious cycle: pain -> altered movement -> poor loading and wearing of other joints and muscles -> back to pain again and so on….
Now think back to that initial injury six weeks ago.
Had you felt no better the next day and made an appointment with a health professional (your friendly Life Ready Physiotherapists or Massage Therapists are always willing to help you out, and provide coffee too!) you might have had some more immediate pain relief and exercise therapy to optimise tissue healing, and avoid re-injury or re-aggravation. This would have lead to you returning to sport and Facebook checking (I mean productive work…) at your desk a lot faster, it would mean that subsequent injuries are avoided and all in all the process is quicker.
Next time you injure self, just think, is it worth waiting weeks to see if this gets better on its own? Or is it worth getting professional assistance and moving forward, life ready, as if nothing had ever happened in the first place? Time will heal things, but when it comes to your body it is best not to wait.
By Heather Snowdon