An injury can place a burden on many aspects of your life – it can limit your ability to live an active lifestyle including performing your daily activities and exercising. Injuries can also take an unexpected financial toll if you are unable to perform job tasks combined with the cost associated with doctors’ visits and specialized medical testing.
The first step when dealing with an injury should always be seeking out advice from someone you trust; this can include both new and persistent injuries. Obviously, if there is a fracture or immediate concern such as excessive bleeding you should bypass this step and go directly to an urgent care center or the hospital. But what about if the injury is of lesser severity, such as pain in the back after helping a friend move, aching knee pain after a long run or walk, or pain in the shoulder after an intense workout? These are the types of injuries I’m speaking about that if not handled correctly can lead you into the rabbit hole of our current medical system and end up costing you valuable time and unnecessary expenses.
Seeking out someone you trust doesn’t mean asking your friend or coworker – that’s when fear is provoked with comments such as “that’s the same thing that happen to Tammy and she had to go in for surgery” or “you’re probably going to have this for the rest of your life.” I encounter this very frequently at the clinic, and usually have to steer patients away from the fear that was provoked by speaking about their injuries with others. A professional that should be consulted after an injury needs to be someone who has specific knowledge and education regarding the human body as well as extensive experience in efficiently and effectively treating injuries. Fitness professionals, strength coaches, athletic trainers, and physical therapists are my recommendations of who to consult with first. This group of professionals will first help you understand if something is truly wrong, or if what you are experiencing is normal side effects of activity such as soreness.
The trust factor and availability is of utmost importance in this situation, because the sooner you handle an injury and have a game plan for managing it, the sooner you can return to your normal daily life; which will save you both time and money. There are many misconceptions and myths that you must avoid at all cost following an injury. First – pain-medication, anti-inflammatory drugs and injections should not be the first line of attack, by taking them you limit your body’s ability to indentify pain and heal. Pain after an injury is your body’s way of alerting you of danger and limits you from engaging in activities that could cause further harm. Inflammation, which is often seen as a villain, is a natural part of the healing process and is crucial for growth and recovery. Ice, most often used to minimize inflammation, is not an appropriate treatment either (a common myth with no science or evidence to back its use) because it limits new blood carrying vital nutrients from getting to the injured area.
Imaging such as MRIs will more often than not have a negative impact than a positive one. How can this be you ask? A very large population of asymptomatic individuals, no injury and no pain, will show positive findings on MRIs. Common findings in people that are asymptomatic include cervical and lumbar disc pathologies, rotator cuff tendinopathy, and meniscus pathologies. With these findings being common in the injury-free population, it makes it near impossible to tell if this is the result of the current injury or are just “winkles on the inside.”
The most important point I can make is that you avoid the following from happening to you:
Person A hurts their back helping their friend move on the weekend, schedules an appointment with a physical therapist for the next day, gets seen and is given the explanation of why the injury occurred along with the game plan to recovery. Person B hurts their back moving on the weekend, schedules an appointment with their primary doctor at the end of the week, who then refers to an orthopedic doctor and is seen the following week who prescribes pain medication and a referral to an MRI later that week. Next appointment with orthopedic is schedule the next week to discuss MRI findings which comes back as herniated disk and patient is then referred to physical therapy.
Please don’t let what happen to person B happen to you or your family. Cut through the hassle of the medical system and go directly to where you would end up anyway – saving yourself time and money. Get on the road to recovery faster by going directly to the place that will result in the most benefits and address the true problem for the long haul.