At the end of 2022 I put out a poll to my social media followers asking what they wanted to see and learn more about in 2023. I have always struggled with being on social media as a business owner and physical therapist. There is so much information out there (and misinformation), it can feel overwhelming; and I don’t like the idea of contributing to that overwhelm. So, I aim to be more intentional. With that, I’m using your feedback to drive my writing and social media content this year because I want to provide you with information that is relevant and useful!
We’re kicking off 2023 blogs by highlighting the peaks and valleys of physical therapy and recovery from injury. This is something that was requested as a topic because it can be so frustrating when you’re knee deep in the process, and it’s sometimes difficult to see the light at the end. With most things in life that involve making progress, we often experience setbacks, plateaus, or even failures. Ultimately, those things are what launch us to be better on the other side! We can think of recovering from an injury in the same way. As much as we wish it to be linear, it just isn’t and, truthfully, if we’re avoiding some of those setbacks or failures, we may not be challenging ourselves enough to see progress. Of course, when dealing with pain or injury there are always guidelines and considerations to help us stay the course.
#1) Be patient with your rehabilitation journey! It’s not plausible to completely resolve pain in 1-2 sessions, especially if something has been around for a long time. The role of a physical therapist is to help you manage pain, modify training, and provide education so you can make informed decisions when it comes to your health. We are always working toward long-term resolutions and goals rather than quick fixes; these are focused on establishing good exercise habits, a healthy diet, and regular and sufficient sleep.
#2) When experiencing a setback there are a few things to ask yourself: What was I doing that provoked this setback? Was it more than my previous level of activity? If so, that’s actually progress! You were able to do more activity before having an increase in your pain. Something you likely would not have been able to do, say, 2 months ago – Congrats!
You might also ask: How much more pain am I in than usual? Is there significant swelling or mobility limitation associated with it? How long does it take me to recover from this exacerbation?
These questions can give us some information on the degree of setback, or how much we may need to adjust in our rehab plan. A small to medium increase in your pain that does not greatly impact your mobility and reduces in 1-2 days after the exacerbation is okay! This is giving us information on the stressors your body can currently handle so we can manipulate those appropriately for adaptation!
On the other hand, if there is a medium to large increase in pain, maybe some swelling, reduction in your everyday mobility, and it sticks around for more than a couple of days then we need to get on top of the inflammation. This may warrant a larger reduction in activity and re-evaluation of our rehab plan; however, by appropriately addressing this we can get back on track!
#3) Your injury is unique to you. It can be helpful to hear stories from others about their experiences, successes, challenges, etc. However, your injury is yours and it’s not the same as your best friend’s. A physical therapist uses experience of managing similar injuries to guide treatment, but they also make sure the treatment plan and interventions are individualized to YOU.
Ultimately, we can never fully predict or avoid setbacks – or injuries for that matter – we can only do our best to navigate them as they come around; and prepare ourselves to be better the next time we face a similar situation. Clear and open communication with your physical therapist is crucial for creating a plan catered to your needs, as well as working through setbacks you may experience. Additionally, continuing to participate in those activities that bring you joy, and that you love, is a huge factor in progressing through a setback – or even helping to avoid them. So, reflect on what those things might be, and the next time you experience a setback remember that it is part of the process!
Need more guidance on something you’re managing? Have questions about your own process or setback? Hit the Talk With a PT Button up top to schedule your free phone consultation!
Ell Carlson, PT, DPT
Elle Morgan, PT, DPT