Our brains are amazing organs. They allow us to push through pain to accomplish incredible feats. This can be a great thing, such as during childbirth, if you become severely injured and need to get yourself to safety, or to finish a grueling race you never though you could do. But this can also be to our detriment, especially when it comes to sports injuries we are dealing with.
No one enjoys being injured. And when we are injured, the only thing we want is to ‘be better yesterday’. Because of that, we tend to do one of several things: 1) ignore the issue and continue training as if nothing is wrong, 2) use medication or braces to mask the pain so you can continue training, 3) attempt to fix the issue with ice, stretching, foam rolling, and maybe resting and when that doesn’t help you give up and get back to training, 4) fix the issue with ice, stretching, foam rolling, and resting, then return to training only to find that the pain returns fairly quickly, 5) fix the issue with ice, stretching, foam rolling, and resting, then return to training only to find that the pain returns fairly quickly, and only then seek out professional help.
Yes, there are the select few who seek out professional help immediately, but those people are far and few between…and I will openly admit I am NOT one of those people! I attempt to fix it on my own at first, too.
And then the next cycle begins once you get the professional help: the pain goes away after several months of care, the pain stays away for a longer period of time compared to when you attempted to fix the issue on your own, and eventually the pain returns again as you return to more intense training.
Several reasons exist for why you continue with this cycle, including 1) only the symptoms were treated during rehab, not the root cause, 2) your body continues to lack proper mobility and stability and once you went back to training you ignored the accessory/isolation work required to create resiliency, and/or 3) your faulty movement patterns that created the issue were never corrected.
Let’s break these all down.
Only the symptoms were treated during rehab, not the root cause
It is very easy to get tunnel vision and focus only on the area of pain when treating an injury. Unfortunately, our pain symptoms are rarely at the location of the root cause. Yes, it is important to resolve the pain and inflammation in an area, but it will only stay away if the root cause is also addressed. For example, many knee issues are caused by lacking strength and control in the foot. You can treat the knee pain and get back to training, but unless you correct the issues at the foot, the same abnormal forces are still present at the knee and will only result in pain returning again at some point in time.
Your body continues to lack proper mobility and stability and once you went back to training you ignored the accessory/isolation work required to create resiliency
Completing rehab and getting back to training is exciting. You get back to running and get back to classes at the gym and attack it full force, neglecting the accessory and isolation work that you had been doing during rehab. The problem with that is the joints are still lacking the necessary mobility and stability for the demands you are placing on the body. Yes, it has likely improved during rehab, but it is not where it needs to be yet to handle the stressors of training. Eventually, you end up injured again, either in the same area or a different area.
Your faulty movement patterns that created the issue were never corrected
This is a huge factor at play with many injuries. Our bodies learn bad habits in the form of bad movement patterns from early on in life. Over time, the body breaks down due to these bad movement patterns. This is why it seems like chronic injuries are just a part of being an athlete, why people like to tell you that running and squatting is bad for your knees, and why almost everyone you know is dealing with or has dealt with shoulder pain.
If you go through rehab and fix the pain that is going on in your body and neglect correcting the faulty movement patterns, the pain is only going to return again because you have not corrected the abnormal forces on the tissues that resulted in the injury occurring in the first place.
So where does this leave you and your frequently injured self?
Most importantly, if you are willing to take the necessary steps for the short term, you will benefit in the long term. Meaning, when you start feeling pain, rather than pushing through it in hopes it will just go away, get it addressed. Yes, it may mean you can train for several weeks, but not training for several weeks is much better than ignoring it now, making it worse, and being out for months or perhaps years.
From there, finding a professional to work with who addresses the full body rather than just the injury, takes time to find that root cause, and takes time to correct movement patterns is essential.
Do you relate to the person who has gone through rehab and continues with the frequent injury cycle? Share your story with me! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story. I would love to help you figure out your best next steps to breaking you out of your injury cycle.
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