5 mistakes you make when you're in pain

So we are now in the month of October, which means one thing - race month. We are 25 days away from the marathon in Frankfurt which is also on the same day as the Dublin marathon. I will have people that have trained for both and I hope they achieve their goals and stay injury free.

So Kevin was injured which put him out for near two weeks, he has trained hard since and now feels he is getting up to speed. With all sports, positivity is what gets people over the line and although Kevin has missed two weeks he has being positive throughout the process. I know the self doubt will come in, the usual questions will be asked: Have I done enough? What if I am not fit enough? Will I get through it?

With all athletes I have treated, it always amazes me how people feel they lose so much when out for two weeks.. You really don't. I have seen players miss four weeks off training, train once two days before a county final and still get the man of the match award. I also have seen some players miss one week and it takes them one month to get back.

The difference is attitude and what you do with your time away from the field or road. Some people feel depressed with injury and eat more, drink more, smoke more, whilst others will get down but then get active and pester someone like me until they are better. Now when I say pester it's a good pestering, they want to improve quick so they want to keep the lungs and blood moving and they want to know how.

5 mistakes people make when they are in pain.

1: Using hot and cold on a muscle.

So how do you know it's a muscle problem? Simple. If it’s sore all the time and you can't find a comfortable position, it could be a ligament or bone damage. But with a muscle which is doubly more common, a specific movement like touching your toes only causes pain.

So what to do with a muscle - only use heat when there is no reason to alternate it doesn't improve blood flow.

2: Live on Google, worry their heads off and don't go to a professional.

Yes... Google is great for answers but most people can't even describe their pain properly. Pain can be rooted from your big toe but will cause pain in the middle of your knee and Google won't tell you that.

Seek the advice of a health professional and listen and follow the plan.

3: Thinking painkillers fix pain.

Painkillers are a brilliant invention and they help people get pain relief. Most pain is rooted with a muscular issue along with painful symptoms. Think of pain as the signal to your body that it's not happy with the position you are in.

Over the years I am still flummoxed when I see someone with chronic back pain come into the clinic and when I start showing them basic (I mean basic) stretches and they say they have never done them before. The first thing you should do is get pain relief and then think muscle relief.

4: Ice but don't compress.

So the big demon you have to deal with in all injuries is inflammation/pain and in particular swelling. Most people use ICE, ehhh not the best idea. So here is an example: player/ runner twists their ankle, can’t walk properly and is very sore and begins to swell. What do you do? 95% will run to the freezer and yes that is great for some pain relief but will do very little for the swelling. If you wrap that ankle in a tight bandage (or ankle support) within an hour after the injury occurs and leave it on for the next few days I would return that person to sport two weeks earlier than someone that uses ice 4-5 times a day. In Kevin's case he wore a bandage everyday for two weeks, used very little ice and got better in two weeks.

5: Thinking their chronic pain will only get better with surgery.

Since when did we start thinking surgery was easy? I have had two knee operations and I don't want another one. That is not a slight on the surgeon's or medical staff as they were all excellent but the rehabilitation is hard and dragged out. More and more people I see getting a simple clean out of the knee can be avoided by simply getting one or two physio sessions.

The pathway should be simple - pain - try a few simple stretches,  if that doesn't work get some hands on physio treatment (and stick the course of treatment, we don't go to Wizard School). Trust your clinician and follow their advice to a tee. A big thing that holds people back is FEAR.  Fear they are going to get hurt further, fear they won’t be able to play with their kids, fear of what they will be like when they are older. These are all common concerns and I can tell you that people that keep looking for the answer for their pain will find the fix.


Tommy ConwayComment