If it hurts don’t do it, YES it is that easy!October 22, 2012
One of the top 3 questions that I get asked on a daily basis is, “Who treats you when you get hurt?” Most people come to their own conclusion that I do not ever get hurt so therefore I never need treatment or that I just live in pain. This is false. I would say that at least once a week I encounter some sort of pain. It amazes me that people think that I don’t get hurt and these are the same people that see me day in and day out up and down off of tables, using my hands, carrying objects, demonstrating all exercises and that is just the time I spend at work! YES I get hurt, a lot, and no I do not have anyone that treats me, I treat myself and I do it only by applying basic principles that I tell people every day but most people blow me off thinking that it can’t be that simple. But it is, it really is.
The most basic principle that if people learned I would have far less patients – if it hurts don’t do it. This will not cure everything but it will help minimize a lot of pain and sometimes minimize the amount of time you spend in therapy. Most people dismiss this piece of advice as being too simple and it can’t be that easy but it is it really is. The trick with this is applying the principle correctly. Let’s say you hurt your shoulder lifting weights overhead at the gym. You stop for the day and then try it again in a day or two, using the same heavy weight that hurt in the first place. Most people will find that the first few will be okay but then as the set goes on the pain that was there days ago has returned, sometimes even worse. Most people get frustrated and then stop lifting all together or worse stop using the shoulder. They then develop weakness which will then lead to a possible rotator cuff tear or frozen shoulder. The principle was applied but incorrectly and therefore the person wound up hurt worse than what they were before.
How do you apply the principle correctly? Well that IS where the tricky part comes in. The first and foremost thing to remember is not to stop moving. In fact move more. Let’s say you have the shoulder injury. Take the rest of the day off and apply ice. The next day start moving, nice and easy in a pain free range of motion. Maybe it gets painful just as you reach overhead, stop before you get to this point. Do this several times throughout the day. No there is no prescribed reps or sets just that you need to keep doing it throughout the day. Your joints and muscles act as pumps, if you move them they will move fluid in and out and lubricate themselves, if you stop the fluid will stop and things will become stiff and dehydrated and cause more problems in the long run. Continue to do this each day until you are able to move the injured body part through the full range of motion without pain. Then start adding back in light weight. Err on the side of too light. You may find that you may get back to your previous weight quickly but make sure that you can do the lighter weight and then a medium weight and then back to your heavy weight.
Oh and here’s a secret the drug companies don’t want you to know…..ice is the wonder drug. Yes ice. Simple, easy, ice. If everyone applied ice the minute something hurt there would be much fewer visits to physical therapists that’s for sure. People take for granted how helpful ice is. Again people blow me off as if I just like to hear myself talk. Pain is inflammation, ice helps with inflammation. And the best part is ice is not expensive, you do not need to buy a fancy ice pack, just apply a frozen bag of peas or make your own ice pack. I know people get confused on when to use heat or ice, and it is a confusing topic, but when in doubt ice.
Most of the injuries I treat are compensation injuries, meaning that the injury took place months ago and the body, which is designed to protect itself does just that. The body will start to fire muscles inappropriately in order to guard the body against pain. The difficulty is, is that you do not know you are doing this. And by doing this you are teaching your muscles to function wrong. Your muscles think they are acting correctly because your body was in pain and if they tell them to function differently then your body is not in pain anymore. So they feel job accomplished. However, this compensation pattern that your body gets into is one that could wind up taking months in therapy to correct.
Sometimes even by applying these principles you will need to see a physical therapist and you need to know when it is appropriate to seek professional help. The rule of thumb that I tell people is that if you do not see it getting better significantly within two weeks then you need to seek professional help. Or if you notice it getting much worse within those 2 weeks you need to get professional help.
As we all age, we will encounter aches and pains. By making changes and adapting a few principles it will minimize the intensity and the amount of time we are in pain.
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