Odds are pretty good that at some point in your life you will get injured. In fact odds are pretty good that you already have at least once. While there are lots of ways to get injured, there are really only two types of injuries. They are acute injuries and overuse injuries.
Types Of Injuries
Acute injuries are sudden injuries that happen because some force over come’s the tissue’s ability to absorb force. These are things like broken bones, mind you I don’t mean stress fractures smart guy.
Then there are overuse injuries. These are your carpal tunnel syndromes and tennis elbows. I would even put most ACL and MCL tears in this category. But Ben! Aren’t those acute injuries?! Sometimes they are, but I would guess that most of the time, these ligaments let loose because of years of misuse and they only look like acute injuries.
The vast majority of injuries that people have to deal with in life are overuse injuries. That means they are largely preventable. Don’t believe me? Ask a full-time PT.
When preventing an acute injury, most of the time good common sense is the best prescription. The rest of the time, stuff happens. If you engage in risky activity, as the literature calls it, your odds of getting hurt go up. These are things like contact sports.
In regards to preventing overuse injuries, the best prescription is sound movement patterns. It’s not hard to predict what’s going to break on someone when I watch them move. Odd movement patterns are fine once in a while. We’re built to operate in weird positions. Especially if we have regular full-spectrum movement. But if you have a funky stride and you run 100 miles a week… something’s gonna give.
The Standard Treatment Frustration
I think the problem of overuse injury treatment is compounded because of our modern approach to medicine. Everything is compartmentalized. You’re in pain so you go see a doctor. He doesn’t really know much about joints or soft tissue so he tells you to see a specialist and prescribes pain killers.
The specialist tells you it’s tendinitis, which I think is a catch-all and a pretty rare condition in actuality. She advises you to lay of the intense exercise, gives you some muscle relaxers, and sets you up with a physical therapist.
The physical therapist does some soft tissue work and gives you some exercises to do that get you to the point where you can move normally, but are only at about 70%. Then they all pat you on the bottom and send you on your way while chalking up your new lower performance level as “getting older”.
I’ve played that game myself. It’s frustrating. Now things are improving thanks to the work of a lot of people, Katy Bowman and Kelly Starrett, who understand that the body is an integrated system. But that doesn’t help you out now does it?
How To Really Resolve An Injury
Assuming that you don’t have an acute injury, the most important step to addressing an overuse injury is to figure out what caused it. Should be so obvious right?
For example carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by keeping the fingers in a curled position for long periods of time. The muscles shorten and tighten and then apply pressure on nerves in the wrist. Now that you know that, all you have to do is lengthen and relax the muscles that curl the fingers and strengthen the muscles that extend the fingers. Oh and then the really important part… stop spending so much unbroken time with your fingers in a flexed position!
Every overuse injury can be broken down in this way. If you can figure out the cause, it will key you in to the treatment and how to keep the issue from coming back.
Now it is possible to create an overuse injury that has done permanent damage. In these cases, a nagging issue has usually been ignored for a long time and finally the body did the only thing it had left. It broke. These cases often need more serious intervention. This is where I’d put most of those ACL and MCL problems I highlighted earlier.
The trick to avoiding this is, anyone? You guessed it! Don’t ignore your body when it gives you warning signs!
So, don’t ignore your body, figure out what poor movement habit caused the injury, reverse engineer the treatment, and stop doing the poor movement habit. If you can’t figure out the movement root problem, find someone who specializes in movement assessment and he can point you in the right direction!