No one enjoys dealing with injury. It’s painful, it’s uncertain, it’s disruptive. But injuries happen. Knowing how to handle them well can set you up for a smoother healing process. Also, good strategizing can help you be less injury prone once you have returned to health.
Sure, the road of injury can be bumpy and frustrating. In fact, it usually is. But arming yourself with some ways of having agency over the process can certainly help. Also, using injuries as a learning process can be empowering and set you up for future success.
A note before we get started here: always check with a medical professional when you have questions about your health. What is provided here are general guidelines to consider, but they are not meant to substitute for professional medical advice.
1. Focus on What You Can Do; Accept Where You Are
One of the most challenging aspects of injury is recognizing that your body isn’t working the way you wished it were. You may also be in pain, which only adds to the pile of things you wish weren’t happening.
So the first step is to recognize what the state of your body is and start there. Wishing things were different or trying to pretend that everything is OK and carry on as normal will likely only make things worse.
Instead, focus on what you can do. Chances are, there are some activities that won’t make your injury worse and there may even be activities that help you heal. No doubt, getting outside, getting your blood moving often does help overall wellness and healing. It also usually helps lift your mood.
Maybe this is a time to try an activity that you’ve always been curious about. Injury can be a time to explore new things.
Also, get back to the basics of health, the three pillars, as we’ve previously referred to them: sleep, nutrition, and movement. While your regular movement routine might be modified, you'll likely be able to do something. And, you can certainly make efforts to get good sleep and redouble your efforts to build and maintain good nutritional habits.
On the note of nutrition, it’s also important to remember to eat enough. It’s a common tendency when people are injured to cut way back on food because activities levels usually drop. But, your body needs fuel to heal. Be sure to give it what it needs to get the job done.
2. Recognize When to Rest, When to Work
Rest is important for injuries. It’s the first part of the well known strategy to treat acute strains and sprains: RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation. Indeed, many athletes rely on this approach especially immediately after getting hurt.
However, if that’s all you’re doing to heal and return to your activity, you may well land yourself right back in the same situation again. Why? Because you aren’t addressing the reason you got injured in the first place. Further, while rest can be a critical part of healing, it’s also a time when you’re losing strength.
Returning to your activity weaker and having not gotten to the root of the problem is not a recipe for success. In addition, some movement and strength building can help you return to activity faster and stronger: that can be a recipe for ongoing success.
However, it can be tricky to know what the best course of action is. How much can you do without doing too much? This is an excellent time to work with a health professional. It can be an opportunity to understand how to help your body move and heal its best.
3. Recognize What Your Body Is Telling You
Injuries often occur because of weaknesses or imbalances in your body. They can even occur because of poor nutrition. Instead of feeling like your body is failing you, consider how you can help your body move and function better.
This is a wonderful opportunity to listen to your body. Again, injury can be a time of great learning and growth.
4. Healing Takes Time; It Isn’t (Usually) Linear
The reality of injuries are, they take time to recover from. Further, it’s really important to make sure you take all the necessary time your body needs to fully recover. Pushing the process may cause the injury to return and set you back to square one.
Be honest with yourself about your progress and heed the caution signs your body is giving you. It can be good to test yourself, but be mindful of pushing things too far. That suggestion is vague, no doubt, but it points to the fact that returning from injury isn’t a clear and certain path. It’s important to learn how to read your body’s own cues and get an understanding of when you’re helping yourself and when you’re probably causing damage.
The reality is, too, this process won’t just go in one direction. As has been mentioned, return from injury can be a bumpy road. This injury could be an issue you’re tending to for a long while. Stick with it, and adjust as needed. And remember: the body is always changing. Always. That’s both annoying and hopeful; use it to your advantage the best you can.
5. Work Injury Prevention Into Your Regular Routine
Certainly the best approach to injury is never experiencing one. We’d all love that! The best way to get as close to that paradise as possible is to work injury prevention into your regular movement routine. Working with a personal trainer is a great idea here.
One-on-one attention to address your unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and imbalances helps set you up for total body strength and mobility. Learning how to move well and developing the musculature to do that in a healthy way is a solid injury-prevention strategy. You’ll also just feel better.
Overall body strength and stretching routines like you’ll find with yoga and Pilates are also wonderful additions to any wellness approach.
It’s Your Body, Use Your Agency
Dealing with injury is personal and can be a time for personal growth. If the strategies or treatments prescribed to you aren’t working or you’d like to explore other options, do it.
There is rarely if ever a 100% certain path to the very best way to recover from an injury. Be your own best advocate, and seek the treatments that feel right for you when dealing with injury.