I get two types of patients coming to see me. Type one goes something like, ”I may be being silly but I am feeling a little uncomfortable and I thought you may be able to help?” Type two are those who usually hobble into my treatment room and proceed to explain how they have had a certain injury for several months (or even years!) and they have decided they want to ”get it sorted out”, usually because there is an event they are working towards (going on holiday, going back to a sport, starting a new job, the list goes on…). Now I try not to have favourites but I bet you can guess who will recover better and faster in these two scenarios. There are of course many who fall somewhere in between these categories and another one altogether for those seeking treatment for acute injuries (usually through sport).
So why would someone delay seeking treatment for an injury that is affecting their everyday life? Some common answers include, ”I figured it would disappear”, ”it was only a niggle at first”, ”I didn’t have time to see anyone” and many, many more, but number one on the list is ”I knew you would tell me to rest but…”
Why do we fear rest? There is something about the word ‘rest’ that people seem to find alarming. But I can’t possibly rest, you say, I have to go to work, I have to keep fit for my favourite sport, I have to, I have to… The truth is, sometimes you have to rest. Stop what you are doing, it is causing you harm and you need to take a step back. I know it’s tough. I know you hate it but often the first step in the road to recovery is allowing your body the time it needs to heal itself.
I think it is pertinent here that I define what I mean by ‘rest’, I am by no means advocating bed rest. In fact, in the instance of acute low back pain, there is a fair amount of research available that suggests that advice to rest in bed is less effective than advice to stay active. Certainly it has been found that getting patients moving as quickly as possible following joint replacements improves recovery time. This is where the confusion lies, people are constantly being told to ”push through the pain”, ”no pain, no gain”, ”you need to keep active”, is it any wonder then that you feel wrong-footed when someone like me tells you to rest an injury? What I mean by ‘rest’ is, not stressing already vulnerable and damaged tissues, allowing those tissues time to heal so that they are not re-injured. Perhaps it would be better if I called it a controlled return to activity.
Does that mean you can’t use it at all? No, but you can’t continue doing the same things over and over again and expecting it to get better. This may mean that you need to cut down on your normal routine, try doing a different type of exercise instead, walk instead of run, skip leg day at the gym, go to yoga instead of spinning. Don’t be afraid of rest, if you do it right the first time around and allow yourself the time you need you will end up with a better result sooner than if you try the minimum amount of rest possible and come back too soon after injury.
Whatever type of patient you are, never feel like you are unable to discuss your concerns with your practitioner, be they Osteopath, Physiotherapist, Sports Therapist, GP or anyone else you may see. It is nearly always better to address a concern early on, so don’t wait for months which could lead to further injury and delayed recovery. If you have a niggling injury or feel like something is preventing your recovery, give us a call and let’s get that fixed, sooner rather than later…