What are the Psychological Effects of an Injury & How Can You Deal With Them?
Posted on 12th June 2020 at 10:00
Many of us have had the heartache of feeling at peak form, getting faster, stronger, and fitter, then being struck by injury.
As therapists we treat a lot of people with injuries. With injuries as well as the injured muscle, bone, or ligament there is often an associated psychological aspect.
When we train, we don’t just put our body through physical stress but also mental stress.
Every year you enter a ballot for the London marathon and what seems like a lifetime later you get the email saying you have got through the ballot and you have a place in the marathon. Exciting!
So, you start training, building your miles up, feeling in the best shape you can be. You consider your nutrition, you get your mindset right and you’re looking forward to the big day.
Then you wake up one day decide to go for a run feeling good then awkwardly slip off a curb twisting your ankle. Like most people you carry on try and “run through it” but that hasn’t worked. With 2 weeks to go until the marathon you go and see a therapist at Fire&Earth who says that you could possibly have got a grade 2 ligament sprain which would mean at least 2-4 weeks of no running. You’re no longer doing the marathon.
What are the psychological aspects of injury?
The injury is annoying and has come at a terrible time, but arguably the most important thing to think about in this time is how the injury is going to affect you psychologically. It has a massive impact as you can’t train. A lot of people use training and exercise as an escape from work and life stresses and it can also help with depression and anxiety. Not being able to go out can increase these feelings.
If you’ve been training every day for the past months and then you’re told you can’t train you may feel like you’ve done put all the effort in for nothing.
The other psychological aspect that is that a lot of people go out running with other people. For some people it’s a way to chat to other people and be sociable, so if they can’t go and run they don’t go out as much so can become withdrawn.
Another aspect we deal with as therapists is clients feeling that they are not going to be able to train as hard or as fast and they feel they will never get back to where they were before the injury. It’s our job to reassure our clients that if we rehab and do our sessions in the clinic well there’s a good chance they will get back to how they were before the injury, with the understanding that everyone is different and everybody reacts differently to treatment.
How can you deal with these psychological aspects?
Essentially there is no easy way to deal with an injury however you can look at putting some coping mechanisms in place to help with the recovery process. The first thing we could look at as therapists is what other exercise you could do. This is called cross training, so adding in say swimming which is non weight bearing instead of running. This then aids with the not being able to train in your main sport. Yes we know it isn’t your preferred sport but it is a form of exercise and should make you feel better.
This then also helps to a degree with the depression and anxiety. No it’s not running, but it is exercise and it is a break away from the normal life.
The other thing we address is giving an estimated recovery time. This obviously varies from client to client but will allow you to have goals put into place to make the injury seem less daunting to deal with.
Lastly, but arguably one of the most important factors, is managing expectations. Yes, we’re good at what we do but unfortunately we’re not magicians. Sometimes it’s not sorted in the first session. Yes, you’ll have to do rehabilitation which will involve the dreaded stretching. And yes, you may have to build up the miles again, but it will all be worth it when you’re able to run comfortably, pain free.
Injuries are not ever welcome, but we also need to think not only of the physical side of an injury but the psychological side. At Fire&Earth what we try to do is feel that we are not only helping with the physical side but laying down foundations to help with the mental side of the injury too. You can build on these foundations and get back to training as quickly as possible and as happy as possible, too.
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