When can I start running again? When can I return to work?
When can I???
Every patient that comes through my door asks such questions at least once. No matter our age or condition, although we think we are still a kid at heart, when recovering from an injury our body and mind are not on the same playing field. We think we can, until our body says “no.” At least not yet.
Normal healing from an injury takes a minimum of six weeks. This is a natural progression, and with the constant stresses and strains we place on our bodies every day, it should make sense. During that six-week window you are in a vulnerable state. Whether you have pain or not, your system has been weakened, muscles aren’t as strong or flexible, and your joints may not be as stable. If you go back to a rigorous activity too soon, these factors can place you at a higher risk of re-injury, only to restart the six-week healing process.
It’s also important to note that age and the type of injury also plays a part in recovery. Those at fifty, sixty or seventy may need ten to twelve weeks—or more—to recover. And those recovering from surgery, depending on the type, require even longer. As a physical therapist, when I meet with a patient after a recent surgery, I tell them right off the bat to give themselves one full year to feel “normal” again, and to be able to perform all activities they were doing prior to surgery. I know it sounds like a long time, but this is the reality. Most assume once surgery is done they will be back to normal within a couple of weeks or months. One must remember surgery is a traumatic event requiring extra time, patience, and rehab in order to return to optimal function.
The bottom line: listen to your body, slow down, and respect your body’s need to heal. Many people stick to the old adage “No pain, no gain.” This can be true, but there is a time and place for this mindset, and in the early phases of healing—this is not the mantra to follow.
Sometimes, these moments in life can actually reshape us and help us realize that maybe this all happened for a reason.
Here are some tips to help you through the healing process for your mind, body, and spirit.
Aren’t we most impatient with ourselves? Rather than be discouraged, frustrated or angry—enjoy the journey. During this road to recovery you may learn more about yourself than ever.
Rather than complain, or think about the activities you are missing out on, give thanks for the things you can still do even if they are small, like reading a book or seeing a great movie. Soon enough you will be back to the usual grind, so enjoy the break you are giving your body.
Writing about your healing path can help purge the emotional hold you have on your pain and injury. Get your frustrations out on paper and rid emotional stress your body is hanging onto, which also may be contributing to a slow recovery.
START A NEW . . .
Begin a new hobby. If you can’t participate in an activity due to a physical hindrance, then use your mind creatively. Whether it’s drawing, reading, or meditation, stimulating your mind and body in different ways will spur some happy hormones—those same happy hormones your body would experience after that workout you love to do.
Although there were many reasons why I became a physical therapist, one reason was due to my own injuries from swimming and triathlon training in my early twenties. It took four to five months before I got to slowly return to these activities, and an additional two to three months to feel “normal” again. I learned more about myself in those months than I could have imagined. Those life lessons still contribute to the person I am today. It wasn’t an easy road, but now I am a better person, and am able to assist my patients during their healing journey. It is an evolution where one comes out on the other side feeling stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Erin Carr, DPT, is an integrative physical therapist at The Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. She works with individuals of all ages and variety of conditions using a multi-faceted treatment approach with the goal of diminishing pain and restoring optimal function. You can also visit Erin’s website HERE.