Coping with an injury

  Posted by Louise but written by Michael!

Injuries, they’re inevitable. At one time or another you are going to hurt your arm, your back, your knee, something on your body is going to get injured and you have to cope with it. If you’re lucky the medical advice may be a simple: just rest it for a bit. Or you might hear the dreaded words of: you need surgery. Either way, simple injury or life changing one, coping with an injury is not always easy.

If you are normally an active person dealing with any kind of injury can be quite difficult. There are emotional issues as well as physical issues you have to work through. The following strategies may make the process easier and help you come out of recovery quicker.

Acknowledge your injury Before you can start to recover, you have to first acknowledge you are hurt. While it can be easy to ignore pain and just “work through it,” if you really are injured the pain is not going to go away but intensify. You may be able to self-diagnose the problem (e.g., your shins hurt because you’ve upped your runs from 3 miles a day to 8 without slowly building your endurance). Or, you may need to see a professional. Understand that it’s not a sign of weakness to seek medical advice, and often it can save you from turning a minor injury into a major one.

Understand your injury Once you know the specifications of your injury you will appreciate what your limitations are and why. For example, if you learn that you have a partially torn cartilage in your arm, you’ll understand why if you continue to use that arm and not let the injury heal, you’re going to eventually have a full-torn cartilage. You also need to understand how you got your injury so that if possible, you can avoid repeat injuries.

Maintain a Positive Attitude Getting hurt and being in pain stinks. It is no fun not being able to do the things you love, especially when all your friends, teammates or training partners can. But the mind is a very powerful thing. A flood of constant, negative thoughts are only going to make the healing process take longer. But research has shown that it may be possible to speed up the healing process by using specific mental skills and techniques such as imagery: imagining the way it will feel when you are recovered, imagining the desired outcome as though it is happening now or has already happened. So keep a positive attitude, remain focused on the good you’re doing (healing your injury), imagine yourself healed and you will recover faster and who knows, maybe even stronger.

Maintain Your Fitness While Injured This is probably the hardest part; maintaining your fitness while recovering. Depending upon the type of injury you have, you will probably have to modify your training or add alternate forms of training to maintain cardiovascular conditioning or strength. While it may not be your favorite form of exercise or work you as hard as you want, but there are always options. For example, if you can't run, perhaps you can cycle or swim. If you can’t do any lower body work, focus on arms and core. Or if you can’t really do much moving around at all, work on relaxation training. Use your recovery time as a time to experiment with new training options. Keep an open mind, you may find out you really love yoga and never knew it. Or that all these years of being a runner you were really meant to be a swimmer. Or not. But just keep moving in whatever capacity you can.

Injuries are an unfortunate fact of life. You may be lucky and never have to cope with a really debilitating injury. But for most of us, even having to take just a few weeks off our normal routine can seem debilitating. But if you acknowledge the injury and learn what it takes to heal it and then follow that advice with a positive attitude, coping with an injury isn’t that bad.