Recovering From a New Injury When You Have Chronic Pain

I’m hyper-flexible. Freakishly hyper-flexible. I bet with practice, I could be one of those preforming artists with Cirque du Soleil. When I bend down to touch my toes, I can put my hands flat under my feet.

This, among other Yoga poses I can do, freak people out time and again.

Part of it is conditioning, the other part is biology. Once, when I had x-rays done, the technician knew I was super flexible. There was a lot of gaps in my joints.

You’d think it’s a neat gift, but I’m a lot more prone to injury than your standard person. Oversimplified and probably wrong (I’ll have to double check): it’s a part of why a lot of my injuries go into chronic phase. Bigger muscle groups end up doing the job of the little guys because the little guys are more concerned about keeping my bones in place. The paradox is that the constant stretching and manipulation I do alleviates pain for chunks of time.

You can only stretch an elastic band so far. Whoops.

When you’re in a lot of pain in one area, the focus tends to stay there. An odd side-effect of injections for pain is that your brain’s now able to remind you that other areas are either bad, or worst, flat out busted.

Yup. I had a big one hiding behind that pain.

I pulled my hammies. Both my hamstrings decided to tap out on me.

The hamstrings are a collection of three muscles in between the hip and the knee at the back of the leg. They’re responsible for a lot of one’s upward mobility.

Thank you to Check.Physio for the clear graphic.

You’ll know when you’ve pulled your hammies. There’s a sharp pain from the base of your butt that stops at the knee when you try to bend down, or stretch. It gets worse throughout the day. Since this was my first time with this sort of injury, I resorted to Dr. Google. Always have healthy skepticism: it’s a great resource but everyone’s different. I too have to remember my SI joint has been affected by an MVA, and these muscle groups are linked.

The first piece of advice I found was stop any exercise regime, and call a physiotherapist and book an appointment to see how bad the strain may be. I’m fortunate to have a private PT, so I did just that. They are available through NSHA, but the wait times are bad, and it’s hit-or-miss with who you get. Private isn’t too painful on the pocket book: the highest cost for me is $75 for initial assessment, $60 for follow-ups (which I’m sure you can shop around to find less expensive). All is covered by private insurance. I’ll talk more about that further down.

Second: do a modified stretch at least three times a day for 30 seconds. Usually I’d be sitting on my butt and reaching for my feet. This puts too much pull on an already sensitive area. You don’t need any special equipment.

  • Lie down, making sure your back is flat on the floor.
  • Leave one leg down and bend the other at a 90 degree angle. Hold your thigh, and if this is too difficult, use a towel.
  • Slowly lift your foot at the knee until it’s strait. Go slow (it’s not pleasant). Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Lower leg and repeat on other side.
Doing this on a bed or couch is just as effective as the floor.

Next was the physio appointment. As mentioned above, I had my initial assessment, and had the above stretch confirmed to be key in recovery. Treatment began. It started out with light stretches, then with what’s called dry needling. It SUCKS, but it works and is worth it. The trained person finds a trigger point in the muscle, pokes it with the very light needle, and slightly manipulates it to release tension. It causes my muscles to jerk, and in this instance, it felt like lightning shooting down my leg. My muscles feel like dead weight once it’s over. After that, I had some manipulation done to prevent this injury from effecting my SI from the MVA, then TENS with rest and heat. As a bonus and protective: a few acupuncture needles. I then had my ankle supported with KT Tape, and was told to tape my hamstrings before I start to move again. Light exercise only until the pain is all the way gone.

Walking right after treatment is challenging. I was slower than molasses, and passed out for two hours from the intensity of the treatment.

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My experience with physio is that they want you healed as fast as possible so you don’t have to keep going back. That’s why they’ll give you things to do at home to assist in your recovery. Do them if you want to be kind to your wallet. Oh, and the KT tape? It’s available at pharmacies: don’t feel pressured to buy expensive versions. Even my physiotherapist said store-brand KT tape is just as effective. It’s more elastic than a cloth wrap allowing the injury to be isolated but stable. The internet will also show you how to tape sprains, so if you can’t get to a physiotherapist, highly recommend this option. Something is better than nothing.

What now?

My focus is to start walking again with no inclines, and slower pace with a shorter stride. No extra weight baring, continue my other exercises that have helped my SI, and gradually increase once I don’t feel the type of pain I know isn’t chronic. The other concern is focus on this area so much like I did my trapezius area for my TMJD. I finally have that settled, not paying attention to my upper half could cause a flare.

It’s sort of cheesy, but I also have to remind myself that injuries on top of my chronics happen. Roll with the punches, and take it one step at a time. I don’t know about you, but the damn chronic voice will tell me I’m a screw up for breaking myself even further. It also doesn’t mean these injuries will become chronic. That is a fear in the back of my mind, which there’s no proof they will. Do my best to heal in the best way possible.

Always challenge that voice.

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