Back in 2007 I broke my right arm snowboarding. It was a bad break, the distal ulna just above to my wrist. It is one of many bones that I’ve broken living a wonderfully active life. All of the sports I love, martial arts and yoga particularly, rely on wrist mobility and strength. After a few days of pity parting (and serious pain management as I refused the pain medication) I began to stop feeling sorry for myself and start moving. I couldn’t hit with my right hand, so I’d hit with my left. My left soon became faster and stronger than my right was! I started to really focus on my kicking and it became more explosive than ever. I began to love kicks I didn’t even like before. I was the queen of squats and lunges! I could not do a headstand or handstand, which was a daily yoga practice for me, so shoulder and posterior chain mobility became my new yoga practice. I was jogging daily as soon as the pulsing pain of my broken arm was bearable.
Elated after the 2009 World Kung Fu Championships
The hand and wrist specialist at Mt. Sinai told me I would never be able to supinate my wrist again if I didn’t have surgery. Every appointment he would try to convince me that I would never have “normal” wrist function without the insertion of a metal bar and pins. He was right. Normal was never my thing. I began rehab on my wrist the day my cast came off. I stuck with my very painful rehabilitation twice a week for 2 months and never had surgery. Two years later I won the TWKSF full contact kung fu World Championships in Germany and delivered a KO with my right hand. Today my handstand is better than it has ever been. Oh, and I can supinate my wrist nearly 100 percent.
It is common to think that an injury means you should stop moving. Whether conscious or subconscious, injuries are often used as an excuse to basque in self pity and be lazy. There is a time to rest and possibly back off from a sport or movement that constantly aggravates an injury. However, most injuries happen because our bodies are not conditioned to take on the load we are asking them to take. Those that workout regularly are more prepared, both physically and mentally to better manage injuries.
The severity and location of an injury are important factors in knowing how to manage it. Some injuries like bone breaks will require visits to your doctor and in some cases surgery. Many non life threatening injuries can be managed with rehabilitation with mobility and strength exercises. Studies show injuries heal faster and better through an exercise routine that maintains mobility of the ligaments, muscles, fascia and joints that surround the area. With too much rest, lack of mobility will cause stiffness in both the mind and body, and will eventually create more problems to manage. Most injuries need 1-3 days rest before beginning rehabilitation movements. If the injury has not improved after 3 days seek guidance from a health care professional.
Rehabilitative yoga, swimming, biking and walking among other gentle exercises can and should be employed sooner than later. With injured athletes whose sports often define who they are, maximized movement is key to recovery. The psychology of the injured athlete is complex and depression is common in these cases. Activity must occur as soon as possible to avoid feelings of hopelessness. Depending on the severity of injury, this group may need some mental rehab to compliment the physical rehabilitation.
We can not always control what happens to us. Life is a big beautiful mystery that’s full of surprises and curve balls. All we can do is prepare our minds and bodies to rise to the occasion whatever it is. Don’t let one thing you can’t do cast a shadow over all of the possibilities in your life. Treat your body like the amazing gift it is, MOVE!