It’s awful being injured isn’t it? Seeing all your friends off doing the
activity that you all love whilst you’re stuck at home. Seeing their sporting successes pasted all
over social media (Oh, we all do it!) and the longer the injury goes on the
worse everything seems to get.
Are you aware that chronic injury-related pain could be influenced by psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and stress? Let’s look at that in more detail and find something that we can do about it.
Chronic pain is an acute and/or intermittent pain that persists for more than three months duration and has become a major health problem due to the high number of people affected. Apart from individual suffering, chronic pain is the cause of many social and financial pressures on society.
The causes of musculoskeletal chronic pain vary and are in several patients unknown. Some of the most common causes reported are injuries related to traffic accidents (whiplash), falls, or sports injuries. Chronic injury-related pain may be influenced by different physical and emotional factors that also affect daily life. During the last decade, attention has been paid to psychological factors such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, and negatively coloured cognitions that could be associated with future impairments.
In the athlete, this can manifest itself as fears of returning to the sport, fear of letting down themselves or their teammates and fear of the injury reoccurring. Thus, a vicious spiral ensues.
In terms of soft tissue therapy, there is much anecdotal evidence to show that the soft tissue tension is influenced by the emotions as much as the training and so injured athletes in effect risk prolonging their injury with their own negative emotions.
What can we do?
Goal setting is one of the easiest places to start. The athlete should set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time measurable) events appropriate to their training goals and the expected injury recovery progress.
It is important that the goals should self-determined by the athlete so that the athlete has ownership and adheres to it. Effective goal setting during rehabilitation should include making different levels of goals relating to overall recovery and beyond (long term), stage of healing goals (medium term) and day-to-day aims and objectives (short term). The simple task of ‘ticking things off the list’ when the goals have been achieved and to look back and see the progress made helps the athlete create a more positive frame of mind.
Mindfulness techniques are also useful. Being able to decipher what it is that we can control and letting go of what is beyond our control is for centuries been used to create a calm environment. Headspace do a great free app for your phone that will get you started and teach you the techniques.