So, you took that iffy step off a curb and now have a sprained ankle? Don’t worry, with a couple of weeks of rest, you’ll be as good as new….. That is almost never how it works out in real life. Whether the injury is so “simple” as an ankle sprain or a broken bone to a devastating injuwry requiring advanced medical intervention, it’s never that simple. Our bodies are created to keep moving forward and with that comes a whole lot of compensation patterns.
Let’s take that simple sprained ankle example and break it down. It’s not severe enough that you must go in for x-rays or head to the emergency room but man, it hurts! You have a life to lead and stuff to get done so you push through, but you can’t really put your full weight on it. Now you’re limping. Even just a few short days of limping can create a whole chain of events that travel up the full line of the body and can wreak havoc on everything else.
It is very common for an ankle sprain to force the foot into an incorrect position, again due to pain, so that the forces are transferred up through the rest of the body in an abnormal way. That can, in turn effect the muscles in the foot and the full way up the chain, through the knee and the way it moves through the gait cycle. That in turn can, cause the hip to move differently and the hip can lead into trunk movements being adjusted. Suddenly, your simple ankle sprain has turned into a backache or pain in your shoulder and you aren’t able to remember any event that could possibly have triggered pain in those areas.
That is because of your body’s ability to make adjustments on demand. It won’t send you an email or text message and ask if it’s ok to move in a different way, it’s simply going to do it. We are amazing creatures in that way, we adapt and move on. The problem with all this adaptation is that VERY often, we are unaware of the changes, and once the injury has healed, we keep moving in these compensatory patterns. These patterns later lead to a mysterious “injury” later down the road that seems to have just come on with no real traumatic event to blame. “I just picked something up from the floor and my back went out”.
But what do I do?!
You might think that the last thing you want is someone touching your freshly sprained ankle, but an experienced Physical Therapist or Myofascial Release Therapist can help ease the pain and get you back on your feet faster than just rest alone. No two injuries are identical so I won’t bore you with an exhaustive list of everything that could possibly be done but some basics would be:
- Set an appointment with your Physical Therapist as quickly as you can – we’re experts on this sort of thing and can assess where you are and what steps will be most beneficial to you
- Make sure to tell your instructor and any other trainers you work with that you have an injury so they can modify your exercise to keep you safe and prevent further injury (perhaps you’ll need to step out of group classes for a short time and take private lessons that will be catered to your exact needs at the time).
- Give your body a break but don’t simply stop moving altogether – These amazing machines are meant to move; we just have to make the proper adjustments while we’re healing.
- Commit to your home exercise and self-care program – If you see your therapist 1 to 3 hours per week and do not do some homework yourself, your recovery will take much longer.
- Be understanding and patient with yourself and your body – healing is never a straight line. There will be ups and downs as you heal and regain your strength, range of motion and stamina.
Our entire body is one unit, everything effects and interacts with everything else. The whole thing needs love and care and we are here to help you in your strongest times as well as in those times when you need a little extra TLC. Watch out for those crazy curbs and be in good health!