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Mental side of healing
Every athlete or active person has been debilitated in some way due to an injury.
For an athlete, sport and activity is a significant part of their lifestyle and well-being, therefore, limitation of physical performance are not easily accepted. Such individuals more quickly and quite ironically neglect their injuries to foster rather than address it, and allow their body to fall into a cyclical pattern of inflammation which in turns warps the tissue itself in a number of ways. Such patterns are eventually outdone by the pain that one day becomes unbearable.
The doctor’s visit that can often lead to a recommendation for rehabilitation and/or corrective exercise with a qualified therapist initiates the physical journey begins towards recovery. However, the mental recovery is equally as important in ensuring a full, painfree return.
My clients who are mature enough to recognise their mental phases of healing, usually mention them during our sessions and discuss their feelings and emotions as they go through the steps towards a full recovery. Such individuals are more inclined to respond positively to therapy.
From the moment the individual is injured, the mental process begins and they are as follows: denial, desperation, depression, acceptance and rehabilitation.
Denial: Most times, an active person or athlete ignores their injury. One of the more obvious expressions of this is an athlete trying to run off a severely sprained ankle. This sort of mentality can continue into the treatment room until the athlete is able to visibly witness the damage that has been sustained via swelling or the results of a visual diagnostic such as an x-ray, MRI or diagnostic ultrasound, or feel the intensity of the pain.
Desperation: This is a significant phase that must be addressed directly, objectively and, depending on the type of personality of the athlete, gently. In the desperation phase, the athlete tries to find a way to minimise their time away from their game/activity. They start to recruit their best bargaining skills, promising extreme diligence in executing their rehabilitation protocol, in exchange for the promise from the therapist or doctor that they will be allowed to return earlier.
Depression: One way or another, the reality of their limitations usually sets in and this will cause a chemical reaction in the body that will lead to a state of depression.
There is a loss of identity in many cases and/or that outlet to maintain that centre of balance achieved through this activity and as such, the individual often becomes disgruntled, frustrated, fatalistic, scared or uneasy to name a few of the emotions.
Acceptance: After going through the trauma of uncertainty and adjusting to the idea of being injured and therefore, limited, the individual can move towards accepting his/her reality. This is the first stage towards mentally positioning themselves towards actually addressing the needs of their injury and allowing themselves to receive the information that surround their current state of being and how to overcome it.
Rehabilitation: The execution of the treatment protocol requires as much openness towards it mentally as it does physically. Having accepted their condition, the athlete starts doing what needs to be done as is being prescribed by the clinician both inside and outside of the clinic: the do’s and don’ts.
Very often, older athletes and adults can sometimes have more difficulty moving past the desperation stage of healing after being injured. They start opening themselves up to the advice of any and everybody claiming to be a guru in therapy or healing.
As such, they take in perspectives of several specialists, who are not necessarily working and corresponding with each other which can skew the expected outcomes of the treatment in both the long and short terms.
Such initiatives can jeopardise the effectiveness of anyone of the treatments and ultimately, affect their pain levels and progression.
While it is not possible to stop a legally-aged adult from seeking treatment from alternative specialists, it is always imperative that all doctors and therapists involved are aware of al treatments being applied. Ultimately though, it is important to understand there are no quick fixes, particularly with chronic injuries. There are ways to reduce the symptoms of pain, however, correcting the musculoskeletal and/or neuromuscular symptoms will be a process and the longer you leave it to fester the longer it will take to recover.
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