Yesterday I finished yet another round of injury management. My new doc in Silver City is beginning to understand how seriously I take these recoveries and released me with a figurative gold star and a pat on the back.
This time around I battled a rotator cuff impingement. We don’t really know why it cropped up. It wasn’t a dramatic, sudden injury, just a niggling pain that slowly progressed until eventually I had to acknowledge not only that something was amiss but that it wasn’t getting better on its own. Our best guess as we tried our hand at injury forensics is that my working position and the horrendous ergonomics of my ‘desk’ in the toy hauler allowed the smaller stabilizing muscles in my left shoulder to deteriorate. That set the stage for the bigger muscles to overpower them and pull that complicated joint out of whack in very unpleasant ways.
Anyway, with another notch in my PT belt, I realized I’ve picked up a few things in all of my time managing injuries. Here are a few general tips if you find yourself staring at the business end of a recovery.
- Physical therapy sucks: It’s going to hurt. Possibly a lot. You have to remind yourself you’re investing in your future. Push hard now. The alternative is a lifetime of lingering pain and reduced mobility.
- Do the work: Physical therapy is effective. If you follow the protocols your providers give you, recovery is largely yours for the taking. And a lot of the time, doing the work can help you avoid surgery.
- Don’t stop short: Every single therapist and doctor I’ve worked with has said they’re amazed by how many patients settle for a limp, or a cane, a partial recovery, or reduced range of motion, etc. It’s up to you to decide what quality of life you want. Don’t settle for less than you’re capable of achieving.
- Homework counts: Don’t say you’ve been doing your exercises when you haven’t. They know. You aren’t fooling anyone and the only person who pays the price is you.
- Don’t whine in the PT room: A little grunting through your exercises is unavoidable if you’re truly doing your job but don’t succumb to whining. It happens a lot in my experience. Everyone you share that space with is struggling and they don’t need to carry your noise on top of their own challenges. Whine at home if you must but keep it out of the PT office.
- PT doesn’t necessarily end when PT ends: Depending on your injury, you may need to do PT maintenance forever. Frankenleg still needs extra attention beyond my normal workouts and exercise. It always will. It’s just the nature of my particular damage. You’ll find a manageable rhythm. Stick with it.
- Set yourself up for success: Get the tools you need to manage your therapy at home. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but a home setup removes excuses about getting to the gym and keeps you accountable.
- Personal pep talk: Give yourself a mantra that you can repeat to yourself to get through the hard days. Pair that with a playlist of beast-mode-kicking-ass songs that stoke the “I can do this” fire.
- Don’t get cocky: You might have a feisty, young therapist. And you might be old enough to be her parent. But if you look her dead in the eye and ask her if that’s all she’s got when crushing your workout like a PT badass, she will leave you in a world of hurt and with a bruised ego. Trust me on this one.
As for the icing on the cake, on top of just finishing yet another round of recovery, it’s also happens to be the anniversary of my weight-bearing day seven years ago when I had to start learning to walk again. So if you’re navigating a recovery, I feel you. And if you need a pep talk, drop me a note. Or at least ask yourself “What would Val do?”
Live large and adventure on, friends. You got this.