Injury and I go way back although I wish this wasn’t the case. In the past I was notorious for ignoring injury and as a result making things worse. The orthopedic surgeon knew me well (this is not a good thing!) I’ve done everything from making myself a splint to having laser therapy done in order to heal sooner.
It has taken a few years but the message finally got through my thick skull that if you’re injured badly or suspect you are: STOP RIGHT NOW. Do not run, bike, swim, walk, lift, hike, rock climb or anything else. You risk doing permanent damage that may not show up right away and plagues you later. Remember that the sooner you get help the more likely it is that you’ll have a shorter recovery time.
Part of my problem was that I have a high pain tolerance, HATE sitting still or being told not to do something, and can be impatient. Which basically equates to making me a horrid patient when injured. I have learned that even though the human body is incredible and can recover from crazy things you need to do all you can to help it get there. This includes sitting on your butt for a few weeks if need be.
Here are some signs you are injured enough to stop:
- Sharp pain that comes on suddenly
- Severe changing of your gait
- Pain that starts dull and manageable but gets progressively worse
- Inflammation that makes your limb look like it belongs to an elephant
- Pain that does not subside when you stop and continues post exercise
- Manageable pain that has not gone away after an extended period of time
- Gaping wounds that are spilling blood out
- Compound fractures
Use the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) or MICE (m is movement) methods right away. If things do not improve:
- GO TO THE DOCTOR, preferably one that specializes in sports medicine. Do not try to MacGyver yourself up because it will most likely exacerbate the injury.
- Be honest about your previous injuries, the pain you’re feeling now, and how it actually happened.
- Listen to the doctor’s advice. Write down their instructions so you remember correctly. For example, if you need to be on crutches for four weeks don’t stop using them at three because you feel alright unless they give you the go ahead. Call if you don’t remember what they told you.
- Watch the doctor’s body language: Sometimes if you’re persistent they’ll agree to let you do something. Usually this is accompanied by: hesitating to say yes, shrugging their shoulders, having an expression of “what the…” on their face, or say something like, “this probably isn’t a good idea but just in case you won’t listen be sure to…” Don’t be an idiot and just suck it up and take time off so you won’t hurt yourself more.
- Ask about other activities you can do in the meantime and even if you hate swimming but that’s all you’re allowed to do: get out there.
- Do your physiotherapy: Follow what PT tells you and you’ll not only get better faster but help to prevent future injury.
- Assess how the injury happened: Were you training too much? Out when you were too tired which caused your form to go south? Are you eating and sleeping OK?
- Try other methods to improve the injury recovery time: ART, sports massage, chiropractor, ultrasound, laser therapy, compression socks, the stick, etc.
Once you’re able to get back to your regular routine remember:
- Take it slow. You’ve probably lost some fitness and need to rebuild. This is frustrating but you can do it.
- Be aware of your body’s signals. Is the ankle you recently sprained starting to hurt again? Is that IT band tightening? If so, make adjustments so you don’t re-injure yourself. It can take over a year for a severe injury to completely heal.
- Eat healthy and get enough sleep.
- Cross train to help prevent future injury.
- Go back to the doctor if things are not improving or look for a new one.