Is your mindset slowing down your recovery?
Something that I commonly discuss with patients is about how their mindset can impact their recovery from pain. In my opinion this is one of the most important areas to get right when recovering from injury and every interaction I have with my patients I am trying to reinforce positive mindsets and behaviours for recovery.
Today’s post is particularly aimed at those with ongoing pains and injury, anything that you have had for over 6 weeks. Although, lots of what I am going to talk about is applicable to new injuries and pain.
Patients mindsets and beliefs can be seen as a predictor of who does well and who doesn’t and who may struggle with longer term more persistent pain.
Now this is not just my view. There is ample research to support the idea that our mindset, thoughts and beliefs impact our recoveries. I personally see rehabilitation as reconditioning the body and mind for the demands it will face in life. We cannot afford to ignore the body or the mind as it is one. It is you.
Fear and anxiety are two of the biggest barriers to recovery in individuals with longer-term pain.
It can be a vicious cycle.
Pain – scared to do the activity that caused it or similar activities which hurt – take them out of daily routine – become less mobile/more fearful/less conditioned – become more painful – remove move stuff – avoid painful activities – and round and round and round. The end result is little activity, increased disability and pain.
The fix is educate the patient on nature of symptoms, reassure that it is safe to introduce movement and slowly ramp up movement whilst providing support and constant reassurance over a period of time.
If you were to try this at home, confidence builds as able to do more. There is less fear around movement, better movement quality. You become physically stronger and able. You enter a positive cycle for recovery.
Courage is required to move towards what you find scary, expose your body to it and build resilience to it.
Throwing money at it but nothing working.
In this context I am not talking about paying a professional to help you with your pain. I of course would suggest that to be a sensible approach if you are struggling with your recovery.
I am instead referring to the easiest thing with the least effort mentality and how that translates into an awful habit of buying stuff which will probably offer very little benefit. Stuff like buying a brace, changing your trainers, getting a new pillow/matress.
These practices can be helpful short-term but can often provide no longer term benefit unless of course they were the primary cause in the first place.
Whilst it is true that socioeconomic factors are a major factor in health outcomes, you can’t simply buy health. Throwing money at the problem in the hope it might go away is wasteful.
Recovering from pain/injury is more about consistency, commitment and effort over time, small wins which add up to a good outcome.
This brings me onto the quick fix people.
The quick fix mentality is toxic for outcomes. It often leads to patients getting caught in a cycle of going around trying random interventions with little success. Tried an osteo, physio, acupuncturist, had cupping, taping, done exercises. None of it worked.
I’m always concerned and maybe a little excited when I get this type of patient in clinic.
It is often the case that when you explore their history, they have done little for long enough to have any benefit. It is very rare that they have fully explored the options.
My concerns very from things like, are they going to be unreliable? Are they going to take what I say on board?, Are we going to struggle to help this person?
But excitement for almost the same reasons.
I see a challenge. Can I get help this person better? Can I get them to commit to some change? Can I get them to commit to the recovery they speak of? How do I help them to negotiate their pre-existing beliefs?
I won’t fib, quick fixes do exist in some situations. For example, a case of acute back or neck pain we may wake up in pain and go to the osteo/chiro physio. Who then proceeds to click your neck and gives you some exercises/advice and its gone quicker than it came..
The honest truth however, is that most pain/injuries, especially if you have had them for a period of time, don’t fit into the quick fix box.
They will require,
Consistency, commitment, accountability, and work over time.
Staying on track
This is a key point to understand early. Get comfortable with the idea that you are going to have to put some work in.
Once you understand that in most cases it will take some effort, over a period of time and that the results will not be instant you are in a good place mentally to crack on with the challenge.
If you are convinced that it is going to recover quick with little effort from you, you will be vastly disappointed after 2 weeks when you are still struggling with injury. The frustration leads to dropout or decreased participation which of course is not great for the outcome you want.
If you choose to work with a professional, they will aim to get you to your outcome in an optimal time frame. Working with a professional can help you to decrease your recovery time by ensuring consistency, continually educating, regressing and progressing programmes as appropriate, providing accountability and super importantly keeping your mindset on track.
A positive environment with the right people around you can really make a huge difference for your outcomes.
At the opposite end of the spectrum to the quick fixers we find those who have a negative expectation of their recovery. Once it is injured it will never be the same. I can’t get back to sport. I definitely need surgery to get better etc.
Research supports the notion that those with lower expectations of recovery from conservative care are more likely to fail rehab and go on to more invasive treatments like surgery. Sometimes surgery may be a great option, at other times not but this is a different discussion for another day.
The point I was trying to make is that if you have low expectations of recovery, then likely your recovery will suffer as a result. If you don’t believe you can get back to playing football after your ACL rupture, then it’s highly unlikely you are going to put the work in to get back.
Beliefs govern our actions and it is the actions over a period of time that lead to outcomes in pain and injury recovery. This is ultimately the same for all things worth worth-while in life.
Mindset is vital when recovering from injury. Work on yours.
Be positive, have the courage to tackle your fear, be consistent, be patient, be open to challenging old beliefs and keep making progress.
This is the path to recovery.
Enjoy your day!