Imagine you’ve been working with your therapist – be it massage, physio, yoga or otherwise – and you’ve been incorporating movement into your treatment plan.
3 instances your body is trying to help you, if you’d just be willing to listen
When you hear the word ‘injury’, what comes to mind? Is it something really sudden? Obvious? Is it identifiable? One moment you were fine, and the next you weren’t?
Most people’s minds immediately go to something big – a broken bone from a fall, a sprained ankle from stepping off a curb, or a car accident… And it’s usually something unexpected and entirely out of a person’s control.
You know what I see way more often though?
The chronically tight areas that have people coming in over and over for relief. The stiffness and soreness that comes back repeatedly from work, from sport, and from ‘life’.
It’s the stuff that most people don’t label as an injury because it’s not a full blown, debilitation issue… yet.
It IS, however, coming back predictably, possibly becoming worse over time, and increasingly making simple tasks less simple. These things tend to open a door for injury.
They may continue to build gradually, or they may leave an area vulnerable to a sudden moment of debilitating pain – for instance; a ball player suddenly tears their rotator cuff when they’ve been pitching for years with nothing more than some after game soreness and muscle tension.
In an instant – BAM! – they’re out of the game.
If only there were a 'specific-to-you' way to...
1. Prevent potential injuries
2. Successfully get the most out of your recovery when you ARE injured
3. And address 'old injury' symptoms that have lingered so long they seem permanent
But wait.... What if I told you that your body DOES actually provide you with information like this?
The trouble is your tissues don't speak English! Chances are there is a language barrier and the information you want and need is simply getting lost in translation!
Even those of us who feel pretty in tune with our bodies miss things sometimes! I know that I’m constantly learning and feeling more than I ever did before as I continue to practice getting quieter and more intentional.
There is always more to learn, more to experience and more to refine, and I would love to share this with you!
Once you learn your body's language, you can have an ongoing dialogue with it in real time and understand its needs confidently.
Let’s take a closer look at those 3 instances where your body is trying to help you out…
One: Before injury strikes
Many injuries are the result of repetitive strain and habitual muscle guarding – things you do so often that you go on auto-pilot.
Tension, soreness and irritation can build up slowly and become a full fledged injury over time. There is not always an obvious ‘pop’, ‘snap’ or sudden pain that occurs, AND because so much of your day does become ‘automatic’, it can be hard to pinpoint what contributed to the injury in the first place.
While it may have been difficult to identify at the time, there actually would have been signs all along, AND there’s usually more than one thing contributing to the problem as well.
Your body is clever and constantly giving you feedback about how it’s responding to and handling your environment and your actions. It doesn’t want to punish you, so it’s going to ‘whisper’ subtle clues to you at first.
Effort vs. ease, mobility vs. restriction, comfortable sensations vs. uncomfortable sensations…
These types of things may not seem inconvenient enough, intense enough, or debilitating enough to seem consequential and the feedback may not strike you as important at the time. So, you’ll brush right past it and sometimes forget it was there.
But if the whispers ARE important and are going unheard, your body will turn up the volume. Your symptoms will get more intense, more frequent, more widespread and more debilitating until they put you at a full stop and officially get labelled as an injury. Unless you step in sooner.
Inflammation, unnecessary wear and tear and overactive pain responses that lead to the likelihood of injury can be significantly reduced if attention is paid early on and proactive steps are explored.
Think of all the joint replacements, rotator cuff repairs and carpel tunnel surgeries (just to name a few) that may have been prevented!
Are you seeing that chronically tight area that you’re always seeking relief and maintenance treatments for in a new light?
Two: On the road to recovery
Once injury has struck, or you’re on the other side of a surgery, it’s time to get back on track. But how do you know what to try and how much to do?
Just like there can be many causes for an injury, there can also be many solutions. It’s important to take a multi-faceted approach to healing – so experiment!
When it comes to how much to push yourself physically, people tend to lean towards one of two camps.
Group 1: There is a fear of making things worse or negatively impacting the surgical repairs, and so they err too far on the side of caution.
Group 2: There is a desire to get better as quickly as possible and so they push their tissues too hard, too soon and are more likely to re-injure themselves (and, ironically, stall recovery).
There’s something to be said for following in Baby Bear’s footsteps and finding what’s juuuussst right.
Recognize which of those two groups you trend towards and then ask yourself to either challenge your tissues a tiny bit more, or a little bit less.
Only your body will know what it likes and how much it can handle, and so you need to listen. Find your sweet spot.
To do this, it’s really important to develop interoception. This is the ability to sense internal signals from your body. Put another way, it’s the feeling of knowing what’s happening in your body.
Much like knowing that you are hungry and need food – you can learn to pick up on subtle signals of fatigue, strain or compensation, and have a good idea of what your body might need – or not need!
But what if your injury happened a long time ago and you’re still living with the outfall? Is it too late?
Three: Down the road
So it’s been a while and you’re still left with pain. It’s ‘chronic’…
There is a tendency to consider an area ‘still injured’, even years later. The thought tends to be that the area didn’t heal or didn’t heal ‘right’ and now, it’s permanent. But there’s a difference between ‘healing’ and ‘still reeling’.
Here are some numbers to help you wrap your head around tissue healing time.
- A mild ligament sprain will take 2-4 weeks to heal, a moderate one may take more than 10 weeks, and a more severe sprain that requires surgery will take between 6-12 months. An example of a sprain would be ‘rolling your ankle’.
- A mild tendon/muscle strain may take 3-6 weeks to heal, and if more severe, can take several months. Muscles and their tendons have better blood supply than ligaments, so they tend to heal reasonably fast. An example of a strain is when you ‘pull a muscle’.
- A fractured bone can range in healing time depending on the type of bone and it’s role in the body. They can take as little as 6-8 weeks to heal or as long as 20 weeks or more like in the case if a broken bone in the lower leg. Overall, bones have very good blood supply and heal up well.
Beyond these time frames, you’re no longer injured – technically. The tissues aren’t damaged and they are not in an active state of healing on a cellular level. What you are more likely feeling are the consequences of lingering compensations and coping mechanisms associated with the original injury. And as you learned earlier, these could be building up to an entirely new injury! It’s another opportunity to be proactive, and your body is trying to tell you about it!
For example, someone who was waiting for a knee replacement will have developed ways of walking, getting up and down, and generally moving around that favoured their bad knee. Once the knee joint has been replaced and the pain is gone, these habits don’t just go away on their own. That person will now need to go through rehab to essentially learn how to walk again. If they keep walking ‘funny’ when it’s no longer necessary, they’re more likely to create a new injury.
So... Where to start?!
Regardless of which of these scenarios applies to you, just remember that your body can give you a lot of the information you’re looking for.
Our tissues are adaptive. They are plastic and can be influenced to change. Things don’t have to be perfect or exactly as they used to be to feel better. Just because something is different now does not mean you are doomed!
This blog entry was written by Heather and is based on what she has seen resonate with, and work for her clientele for over a decade. She is a career student who keeps her massage and yoga therapy training current, and does her best to keep up with the newest research and evidence.
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