Why did I get injured?

Blog

It might seem like a bit of an odd title.

Why you got injured for many injuries is pretty obvious – something traumatic happened and you’ve sprained/broken/torn something. For example: you made a wrong step and rolled your ankle. In this case it’s pretty clear there was too much load too quickly for the ligaments to cope with – so they got damaged and you now have an injury.

But a lot injuries are actually not as clear cut as you might think.

For example: the weight lifter who has conditioned her body over many years of training develops hip pain one morning lifting the her usual weight at her usual pace. Or the office worker starts to feel elbow pain slowly develop out of the blue. Nothing seems any different to normal – so why is there now pain?

Clear cut traumatic injuries are typically pretty straight forward. You should get better predictably with a short period of rest and then slowly return back to normal with a good rehab program restoring strength, motion and balance.

But what about those injuries that aren’t so clear cut? Or how about seemingly straight-forward injuries that don’t get better?

The weight lifter was used to that weight, the office worker wasn’t typing harder or faster than usual – so why pain now?

The cup metaphor

It’s important to think about all the factors that influence our pain experience when recovery is not happening as expected. Our bodies are not machines and our pain experience is influenced by more than just physical factors.

A metaphor to understand this concept better is to consider a cup.

Your cup is your capacity to cope.

The more that’s in your cup the less extra space you have available to deal with other stressors. When your cup gets too full it can overflow – this is when you feel pain or get injured.

Some examples of things that take up space in your cup are: physical activity levels, stress, sleep quality, diet, doing too much too quickly etc.

So when the injured weight lifter asks us the question: why did I get hip pain on that lift we’re going to ask all about her lifting technique, test her motion and strength BUT also we’re going to check in to see if there’s been any changes to her sleep, diet, stress as well.

An overflowing cup can be why pain persists or injury occurs seemingly out of the blue.

Solution: tip something out, build a bigger cup or both.

Getting better can involve sometimes tipping some things out of your cup. For example:

  • Reduce or increase physical activity
  • Decreased training loads
  • Improve sleep
  • Manage stress

Getting better can also involve building a bigger cup. Some examples:

  • Increasing strength
  • Improving endurance
  • Stress response exposure
  • Mindfulness

So next time you get injured or develop pain (hopefully not any time soon!) take some time to consider what’s in your cup at the moment. What might need to be tipped out and what you can do to build a bigger cup.

 

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