Don’t live with pain

As I write this blog post, I am 366 days from one of the most devastating, as well as one of the most insightful, musculoskeletal injuries I’ve had. I ruptured my right Achilles tendon while playing tennis with my daughter. Yes, I was fully warmed up, and had been playing for at least 45 minutes. No, I had no prior history of tendon pain, weakness, or injury to that area of my body. The bloody thing (this is used in the British pejorative, not a physical suffered what is referred to as “a catastrophic failure” of the tendon —it tore most completely and magnificently all at once. Yes, it hurt a lot at first. The “at first” refers to my recollection of the injury through the fog of pain, but, realistically, lasted no more than half a second. Time is a funny thing experienced through that pain fog. The Achilles tendon has few nociceptors (these nerves are usually incorrectly referred to as “pain receptors”, but you can think of them that way for the purpose of this blog), so the pain experienced after the injury is less that you might otherwise think. I have known this for many years, of course, but the mental light bulb glows brightly when you connect a known physiologic fact with an experience. A surgeon reconnected the torn tendon, and the rehabilitation process began. With a wimper mostly, as one is not allowed to bear weight on the repaired tendon for the better part of 2 months. As a physical therapist, I wholeheartedly committed to “aggressive” rehab, because, as you know, we therapists recover faster than everyone else. Reality hit me with the unexpected timidity I experienced while engaging in my rehab. I was afraid of reinjury, or of “messing up” the surgery. I recognized it from years of treating post surgical patients, but I did not anticipate that reaction in myself. I decided to back away from “aggressive” therapy, and followed accepted protocols, allowing myself time to adapt both physically and mentally as recovery progressed. For years I have advocated that patients practice the “2 P’s”—patience and persistence. Perform some kind of movement (it doesn’t have to be thought of as “exercise”) regularly, and allow the body and mind to adapt. Be good to yourself, keep at it, pushing now and again, then back off. The ebb and flow of the recovery process, experienced firsthand, has been both frustrating and fascinating. I now relate to patients in a way I could not previously, but I appreciate more and more. It has allowed me to be a more patient and more persistent therapist and patient. – Mike Jones, Physical Therapist @ our Holland location!
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