Recover from injury faster by getting the most out of treatment
In this article you will learn ways you can take control of your injury rehabilitation. You will learn how to get the most out of treatment so that you can recover from injury faster and hopefully permanently.
By now, hopefully you have chosen a Physical therapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath that you feel will be able to help you recover from injury.
If you haven’t then please take a look at ‘Getting help with injuries and pain’ for tips on choosing the right therapist for you.
Depending on their discipline, your therapist will employ all manner of treatment techniques in order to help you recover from injury. This may include; manipulation, soft tissue work such as massage, ultra sound, electrotherapy and even acupuncture or dry needling.
Why treatment isn’t always enough
FACT: In ten years of working as a trainer I have never had any physical therapist, chiropractor or osteopath fix a client through treatment alone, be it one treatment or forty treatments.
Before I get heckled for profession bashing I want to point out that I don’t believe this is because of anything the therapist has done wrong. I am sure therapists do help patients recover from injury through treatment. I have just never had one directly fix any of my clients.
Admittedly, I do only tend to refer very complicated cases to therapists and to be fair most of the time the therapist in question has managed to correctly diagnose the problem. They just haven’t been able to fix the problem using treatment techniques alone.
In order to recover from injury you’re going to have to do more than just show up for treatment. Injury rehab isn’t just about turning up to get massaged and clicked. Exercises and stretches are a vital component and should be employed whenever possible.
Treatment tips to help you recover from injury
Make sure you tell them everything about your injury and medical history even if it seems irrelevant to you. There may be some tiny piece of information that will make all the difference.
Always turn up early.
If you turn up early there is always a chance that you will end up getting more time with your therapist. The more time you can spend with them the quicker you can recover from injury.
See the same therapist.
It stands to reason, that seeing the same person is always going to be beneficial. The more time you spend with someone the more likely they are to be able to spot problems that someone seeing you for the first time could miss.
Ask for exercises or stretches.
There are rare occasions when an injury needs to be left alone to heal or just calm down a bit. Most of the time though, using stretches and exercises can actually help you recover from injury faster. Ask your therapist if there is anything you can do at home and ask for demonstrations.
Do your homework.
The biggest complaint I hear from therapists is that patients don’t do the exercises/stretches they are given. I set daily exercises and stretches for most of my clients and let me tell you… if you’re not doing them, we can always tell!
You’re not going to recover from injury without taking some action yourself. You can’t just buy yourself better. So step up to the plate and get it done! Set an alarm on your phone or computer and do your homework every time it goes off. No excuses!
When to exercise and stretch.
Unless your therapist tells you otherwise. Avoid doing the stretches or exercises when you have just got out of bed (or been sat down motionless for hours). Your muscles will be cold, stiff and unresponsive. Stretching or training cold muscles is more likely to cause more damage.
Keep it pain free.
Our bodies have evolved mechanisms so that we can keep moving even when we are injured. The human body tends to respond to pain by tightening up tissues around the problem (thus reducing the likelihood of further damage). It also tries to find alternative movement solutions when pain is present.
These solutions unfortunately don’t tend to be ideal. Our altered movement patterns lead to other dysfunctions and damage elsewhere in the body. For these reasons, it is imperative that you stay as pain free as possible during your everyday life and during your exercises or stretches.
Make sure you are doing the exercises/stretches correctly.
Don’t be afraid to double or triple check your exercises and stretches with your therapist. Personally, I don’t care if I have to show someone six times before they get it right.
Stretching or performing exercises incorrectly, will at best, do nothing to help you recover from injury. At worst, doing things wrong may actually make your injury worse or mess up another part of your body. If you really don’t think you are able to do an exercise or stretch correctly, simply ask if there is a different one you can try.
Feedback is vital.
Feedback is a vital component of injury rehabilitation. Only you know how you feel and what causes you pain. When you arrive for treatment, talk to your therapist and tell them how things have been going. This feedback enables the therapist to judge if the course of treatment is working. They may even be able to offer alternative ways of carrying out your daily tasks or different exercises/stretches that will avoid painful movements.
Always ask questions.
You need to think of your injury treatment as a two way thing. You provide the background and feedback. Your therapist provides the treatment and advice. Your therapist will ask you questions about your injury and you should ask questions about your treatment and the causes of your injury.
Learn about what is wrong with your body. If you have a muscular problem, ask what this muscle’s function is. Find out which movements it is responsible for creating and find out when it helps to prevent or decelerate movement. The same thing applies to all types of injury.
By understanding a little more about how your body works, you will be able to recover from injury faster.
For example, if you have a hamstring injury and understand that these muscles should work as a break when you bend over. You will be more likely to think about them when you pick something up. Thus rehabilitation exercise becomes a part of your every day movement simply because you asked the questions.
Remember, you are your bodies keeper and are ultimately responsible for it. You should try to get the most out of your treatment so you can become a better keeper. Pick your therapists brains for info, get your money’s worth out of it!
Give them a chance!
Too often, someone tells me that a specific therapy doesn’t work. When I ask about their experience with the therapy they usually say something like. “Yeah, I went to see a Osteopath once and it didn’t work”. I often reply “So they didn’t have a magic wand then?” to which the person usually just looks at me blankly.
The human body doesn’t come with a USB port that a therapist can use to download X-rays, MRI’s and a complete bodily history. It can be incredibly difficult to work out what the problem is and often even more difficult to work out what caused it to happen in the first place. Sometimes problems are obvious and a quick click or a deep tissue massage may fix them.
Most of the time though, problems have built up over time and didn’t result from one particular action. Give them a chance to help you. If you don’t feel you have made any progress after several months, talk to them about it. Ask if there is anything else they (or you) can do.
Don’t stop just because the pain is gone.
Too often, people stop the exercises and stretching then moment the pain disappears. Pain is however, only a symptom of a problem. Just because the pain has gone it doesn’t mean your problem isn’t still lurking in the background. If you stop too early, the pain will probably come just back again.
It can take thousands of repetitions performing a movement correctly before your body learns that this is the correct way to move. Be patient and keep it up until you are sure you are moving correctly.
When you have recovered from your injury ask your therapist if there is anything else you can do to stop it returning. Ask how long you should continue your homework and if there is anything you should avoid doing.
If after all this you have still not recovered from your injury, please see ‘Why your injured muscle won’t heal’.
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