Alternative Healing

Coping With An Injury

It’s funny…I was going through my draft posts to see what I had (there are so many posts I’ve started and never finished!) and came across this one. I started writing it months ago…months ago when I was feeling SO GOOD about my body and the idea of injuries weren’t something I was even thinking about. I was in a good place to write the post because I wasn’t dealing with an injury, I had clarity and no emotional response to what I was writing. It’s ironic that I stumbled onto this with my current situation. I wanted to share it anyway, because I think it addresses a lot of things.

Injuries are a part of life and they really suck when you’re an athlete. As athletes we put more pressure on ourselves and are less inclined to give our bodies a chance to rest when we hurt. We’re stubborn creatures and we’re positive that we can “work through it.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

This post is about how to cope with injuries that set us back. Any injury can set you back but for this post I’ll be specifically referring to the running injuries I’ve had and how I learned to cope. You can also read this excellent guest post: 8 Mistakes I Made While Injured.

I’ve had to start over several times, and I wrote a post specifically about the times I’ve started over in my journey toward health. In terms of injuries, I’ve had the not-so-serious like pulled muscles that had me hobbling for a week and I’ve also had more serious ones that set me back a long time.

I’m working hard to rehab from the IT Band issues I’ve had and I’m slowly getting my running legs back. For two years now I’ve been working on strengthening my body’s weak areas to prevent further injuries as I start to run again.

 

How to Cope With An Injury

1. Go To Your Doctor.

I see this mistake made all the time. I see it on Twitter, Facebook, blogs…runners especially are horrible at taking it easy and going to the doctor at the first signs of injury. I read these runners talking themselves out of being injured, or running through it (and hurting more).  I also see people using Google and Twitter to self-diagnose and self-treat. Really? Just go to the doctor!!! Then you’ll know for sure and have a good chance at healing.

Trust me, as an injured runner I made the mistake too, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the same mistakes. Delaying the inevitable and living in denial will just prolong the injury and the break from the activity.

If you’re really in tune with your body, you can tell immediately between a “normal” running pain and an “I’m injured” running pain.

2. R.I.C.E.

RICE isn’t just for sprains and strains. It’s just plain common sense. An injury is the body’s way of saying we pushed it too far, too soon, too hard. It wants to rest.

Rest: This means avoiding activities that cause your body pain.

Ice: Ice is your friend. You should be icing the injured area  20 minutes every few hours for those first few days to help with any inflammation or swelling.

Compression: ACE bandages are good for relieving some pain and discomfort from a swelling injury, and it also adds some stability if the injury is in your lower body. Another good one is compression socks. I LOVE these things. I have a pair of medical compression socks from when I had surgery on my ankle (it was used to prevent blood clots after my surgery) and the socks are amazing, They feel so good.

Elevation: The general rule in elevating is to raise the body part higher than your heart. If it’s your leg, sleep with a pillow under your leg to elevate it.

3. Cross Train.

If you can do another activity while you’re healing, do it. Not only will it make you feel better to still be getting some physical activity in, but you’ll keep your body strong. If your running injury is in your legs, try swimming or cycling. But only if it doesn’t hurt!

When I had to take 6 weeks off after my IT Band injury I started weight lifting. That was nearly two years ago now and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I wish I had done it sooner!

4. Take Care of Your Brain.

Depression is common with injuries. When our bodies are hurting, our spirits sink and despair is a normal feeling. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel hopeless–like we’ll never be “normal” again. Depending on the length of the rehab, the sadness can wear us down. The trick is to not let that happen. It’s okay to wallow for a little bit, but give it a time frame. Give it a week to wallow and feel sorrow for yourself, and then move on.

When I had to take a break from running I was a bit bitter. I stopped reading most of the running blogs I followed and loved because every time I read their race recaps I wanted to cry. I went from bitter to sad to angry that “everyone else” could run without injury and I was hobbling around with a bum knee. It sucked.  I skipped posts about half marathon trainings, I avoided the conversations about running with everyone. I knew friends and family were concerned but I just couldn’t talk about it so I changed the subject away from running.

Stay positive the best that you can.

 

5. Try Alternative Therapies.

There are a lot of alternative therapies out there that you can try in lieu of, or in addition to, traditional physical therapy. Acupuncture works for a lot of people. I’ve had mixed results from it. I had a few negative experiences with acupuncture, and then some really great experiences that worked. Give it a try.

TENS devices can also help. It’s weird at first, but feels fantastic!

Massage therapy is amazing and if you can afford frequent massages and sports massages, do it! If you can’t afford it, try Groupon deals for massage places.

6. Strengthen Your Weak Spots.

If you’re injured, there’s a weakness in the body. If it’s shin splits, strengthen the shins and calf muscles. If it’s the IT Band, try strengthen the hips. If it’s Plantar Fascitiis, the calf muscles are too tight. Talk to your doctor, see a sports medicine doctor, or go to physical therapy to target and strengthen the weak areas to prevent more injury.

Your Turn

Have you had to work on this? Are you trying to avoid injuries, or working through them?

Desperately Seeking Dopamine

Recently I went to an all day training for work at PSU. It was called ADD/ADHD Coping Skills. I went to the class because I thought it would be beneficial for me in both my work and personal life. I have coworkers with ADD and the clients we service  are a very high risk group of people (antisocial behaviors, mental illness, drug addiction) and ADD is a huge percentage of their chronic conditions. Not only that, I have a few friends with ADD and Michael has it.

It used to cause conflict between Michael and I. Sometimes Michael had a hard time focusing on too many things at once–so if I email him with a bunch of stuff, several issues in one email, or offer him too many options he can get overwhelmed. I’ve learned the beautiful art of being succinct, using bullet points and asking very specific questions without offering options. 🙂

This post is about some of the tidbits I found interesting about the class but it is also relevant to my blog’s theme about weight loss. So here goes. ADD/ADHD was described as “the emotional frenzy” and a lot of the coping skills were about calming that frenzy and making simple, realistic, and achievable goals.

  • A daily planner that is followed every day sets structure for people suffering from ADD.Set a specific time and place each day to plan each day’s activities (including meal times, work, social, exercise, downtime, etc)
  • Instead of overwhelming people with ADD with big tasks or deadlines, set up START times instead.
  • Kids in the US are prescribed ADD medication 300% higher than any other industrial country.
  • Gym classes were cut from schools and there is a higher rate of ADD and mood disorders!
  • Belly breathing calms the frenzy down. Sit in a chair and put your arms behind the chair, hold your hands and take deep breathes.

Studies have shown that as we as humans moved culturally from the hunter/gatherers to the farmers to finally an industrial nation, we’ve changed. We are LESS active and that has resulted in having less attention. Our brains are being rewired and with the internet age, things are changing even more. We can’t concentrate. How many of us flit from webpage to webpage, skimming instead of reading and connecting? How many of us multi-task to an exhausting level (ME!)? We are always connected, always on, but our relationships are diminishing and our attention spans are shrinking even more. The more stationary we get as a society, the worse we get. [Steps off soap box.]

The Exercise Cure

What I thought was the most interesting parts of the class were the brain studies. If Dopamine levels are high in the brain, it’s hard to move out of that “pleasure zone.” People with ADD have 10% less oxygen in their prefrontal cortex BUT EXERCISE RESTORES IT!

People who suffer from ADD and depression have less dopamine in their brains. PET scans of the brain in people with ADD show that glucose levels are very low. Glucose is sugar, and also our body’s key source of energy. Glucose is in our bloodstream and carried to the brain. If we don’t get enough sleep, the glucose levels in our brain decrease!

Did you know that serotonin is stored in the stomach lining (90% of it). The serotonin is released when we eat, drink, exercise or belly breathe. Then it’s released into the bloodstream and heads to the brain. Why is this important? Because serotonin is what makes us happy. People with low levels suffer from depression and anxiety. It was a lightbulb moment for me. This is why FOOD makes me happy! Eating releases serotonin from my stomach, which surges through my bloodstream into my brain = HAPPY. Duh. It makes so much sense. That’s probably why food addictions are so hard to break. You have to have food. And if your body is naturally low in the chemical that makes you happy and the only thing that works is eating…it’s easy to see why food would be the answer every time.

Something else that I had no idea about: people who have gastric bypass surgery often suffer from depression because of the serotonin levels being stored in the stomach and part of the stomach being removed! I had no idea!

The instructor told a story about a 40-something woman who was struggling with ADD, obesity and heart issues. She had crippling depression and couldn’t exercise because was too tired. Her doctor said her life depended on exercise and she had to start. She just couldn’t. It was too much, too overwhelming. She felt too depressed. She was instructed by her doctor to go to the ADD group therapy that my instructor led and he asked if she had 30 minutes a day to go for a walk.

“No, I don’t have 30 minutes a day. I’m too busy. I’m too tired and depressed.” She was insistent. He tried to help her. He asked if she could do 20 minutes a day? No. 15? 10? Not even 5 minutes a day? She couldn’t do it. Finally, he said, “Can you walk for 30 seconds each day?” She said sure. So the next day she gave it a try. She went for a walk for 30 seconds and decided to keep going. She felt so good and positive after moving her body that she kept doing it! Each day she decided to go for a “30 second walk” and each time it turned into a 30 minute walk! Dopamine levels increase when you move your body and this woman discovered it on her own, and felt better.

I’ve talked about taking small, easy, achievable steps when trying to lose weight on my blog many times. I guess I never broke it down even smaller. If you cannot do 30 minutes a day, start with 30 seconds a day. Put your shoes on, plan a time in your calendar/planner and then go for  30 second walk. Or do squats and lunges for 10 seconds. Do jumping jacks for 20 seconds. Whatever you can commit to and start, do it. You never know, 30 seconds might turn into 30 minutes.

Exercise has helped me in so many ways. It has given me more energy, it curbs that winter depression that I struggle with living in Oregon, and gives me focus. One of the suggestions from the instructor was that people with ADD should try reading while on an exercise bike to find focus. I just love how a simple act of moving the body can be so beneficial!

QUESTION: Do you have anyone with ADD in your life? Has exercise cured anything in your life?