A lot of the clients that we see here at SMARTer Bodies come to us, because of an injury. Most of them have been to the doctor and some to physical therapy (unless that is what they are here for, alternatively), but are still seeking a more thorough recovery. One of the first questions we get asked is, “How long will it take to be back to normal?” or “Will I ever regain full function?” The honest answer to those questions is that… it is entirely up to YOU. As ambiguous as that may sound, that is the truth and anyone that gives you an answer other than that is, despite their best intentions, not being truthful. We have seen people with a hamstring pull regain their previous range of motion and strength (or better) in 3 months, while we have seen other people for whom the same process takes over 2 years before they stop seeing “symptoms”. Not to mention that some of the people who took over 2 years to recover were seeing multiple therapists 2 or 3 times a week and some of the people who healed in 3 months never took a day of physical therapy and maybe only did a handful of sessions with us. What is the difference between those people? Mindset. plain and simple. Diet is a small factor, and body type and definitely your availability to some type of therapy, but ultimately it is up to you how quickly you recover. Those who have a positive outlook are more determined and motivated to do what it takes to recover.
So many people have walked into our office telling us that their doctor or physical therapist told them something limiting. “You’ll never be able to do a plank pose again.” “You will never be able to lift your arm over your head.” “You will never be able to run again.” Or even more subtle: “Don’t do squats”. “Avoid push-ups”. A plethora of these types of statements seem to come out of the mouths of health care practitioners. These practitioners are not malicious, they have good intentions and they are giving you their honest opinion. But it is only that, an opinion. It is not fact, but many of us will treat it as such because they are recognized medical professionals. This kind of information can create not only a physical limitation in the patient, but also create an emotional shift (usually depression) and change that person’s idea of self worth. Yet, time after time, we see these statements being proven to be largely exaggerated or just entirely false. It’s not, because we are miracle workers or, because of some kind of magical external entity or even because of luck. It’s simply because the clients refused to believe the limiting information.
Here is an example that is close to home: My daughter had a major stroke before she was born that affected almost every part of her cerebral brain. Several doctors told me that she would have severe developmental delays. My daughter was too young to hear that message and I chose not to believe it. My daughter never experienced any kind of delay and is, in fact, FAR beyond her milestones (she is a bright and rambunctious 2 year old now). Her most recent MRI showed that she is perfectly normal and on track. As amazing as this sounds, this was no miracle. It was the power of the mind and what we chose to believe (not to mention the amazing support we had from friends, who we are endlessly grateful for). These kinds of stories where people surpass the expectations of their health care providers are great! BUT, they are few and far between. What happens when we buy into these beliefs and statements? Then we don’t even try. Why try to do a push up when my doctor says I can’t? Because of this mindset, people may never try. DISCLAIMER: Not all health care practitioners give limiting information such as this. We are NOT telling you not to listen to your health care provider, but we ARE telling you to listen to yourself first and to evaluate every piece of information that comes to you with critical thinking.
There is also a flip side to this. If we are told by health care practitioners that we are going to be okay and heal quickly and we believe that information, the chances are that will actually happen! In a study done on women undergoing hysterectomies*, it was noted that those who received positive feedback and suggestions while under anesthesia healed significantly faster than those who did not.
Often times people underestimate the importance of their brains in the healing process. In general, a soft tissue injury shouldn’t take longer than a few months (at most) to heal, yet some people will complain of pain for months, and sometimes years following an acute injury. Why is this? One probable answer is the memory of pain. It is because of the emotional response tied to movement of that area. That is what is causing the lasting effect. It is our attitudes and expectations that can change this. The placebo effect is something that we have all heard of, but exactly how powerful can that be? The answer is VERY. There was an experiment done in 1994, as written in the New York Times*, on patients who wanted to receive arthroscopic surgery on their knee to alleviate chronic knee pain that was preventing them from doing daily activities. Half of the subjects thought that they had received surgery, but didn’t. They were instead cut with a scalpel and told that they had surgery. Despite this mock surgery, ALL of the patients reported the same results. They all felt better and they all returned to normal activity! If it wasn’t the surgery that helped them feel better, then what was it? The thought of having the problem “fixed”? Now to be accurate, the patients who did not receive surgery did get incisions, and every time you get a wound, your immune systems acts on it, so this would have promoted healing anyway. However, that is not to underplay the strength of the human mind! If we know this kind of information, that our brains can determine the outcome of our own healing, then the first step towards that process is changing your attitude and expectations. If you think that you will recover, well, chances are that you will!
What is the second step? The second step is making your movement more efficient so that you don’t repeat the same mistake. That is where people like us come in to help you. Whoever you chose as your therapist, be sure that they make YOU an integral part of your healing process. Your therapist should be well skilled in creating efficient movement patterns and helping you choose those patterns over the ones that you used to cause the injury. (We will write more about this in an upcoming post). There are several types of therapies available to aid in this process. Once such method, of which Kim is certified, is M.E.T. (movement efficiency training), which helps break down compensatory patterns and create new (or rather, forgotten), more efficient patterns by engaging our brains with the movements. Luckily, even if you aren’t in the NYC area, M.E.T. practitioners can be found in other parts of the globe. Another such organization that actively engages the student/ client with their own healing is The Breathing Project, where Kim and Mel have studied for years. Or… you could come to Smarter Bodies.
*the links in this blog were provided by Marcel Daane, the founder of M.E.T. who has decades of experience studying this subject.