As a competitive Athlete in my mid 40s, who trains with elite level competitors in their 20's, it would be fair to say that I have my fair share of niggles and injuries. These injuries can and have been minor problems with knees, all they way up to major injuries to muscle or joints. It is also very common for an older athlete to have less obvious 'aches and pains' on a daily basis that can be resolved through focused MartialBody training. In this article I share how I go about healing major & minor injuries using my understanding of the MartialBody Process.
Firstly, it is important for me to say that I am not a doctor or physical therapist and have no training in these areas. The work that explain in this article is simply an example of the ways in which I personally use MartialBody training to heal my own injuries. If for any reason you are injured, it is always worth seeking the advice and skill of a licensed medical professional.
When looking to heal a recent injury there is a specific process that I will use in the majority of cases. I have used this process countless times at this point and am confident that it works for me in a large number of cases. There have, of course, been times where initial treatment is handled in a standard medical procedure, but recovery and rehabilitation will often follow this route.
Do you need medical attention
When an injury occurs it can be a shocking and reality altering experience. When a major injury occurs time can feel like it is standing still, often pain can be all consuming and the shock of the moment can see you completely disconnect from the reality you were in moments ago. This is all entirely normal and should be expected. But soon enough sanity and clarity returns and, although in pain, you will likely be able to think more rationally about the nature and severity of the situation. This is where your mind training, breathing and internal viewpoint can come in very useful.
When I get injured, and have passed through the initial 'shock phase', I will focus my mind, breath and try as best as I can to relax. There is a natural physiological reaction to an injury where the body can tense up to immobilise and protect the area that is injured. This should not be countered, but you can often feel that areas of the body not involved in protection can also tense. So at this point, breath, assess and release as much as possible. This may take 5 - 10 minutes to achieve.
Once you have overcome the initial shock and have calmed yourself down, the first thing to do is to assess the severity of the injury and if you need medical attention. There can often be some reticence to seek medical attention, maybe you do not like that environment, maybe you are worried about what the doctor may say, or maybe you simply don’t want to bother waiting in an ER for hours on end. But we have to understand that if an injury is severe enough, medical professionals are the ONLY people we should be seeking. One of my teachers would often say 'acupuncturist is not very good for someone who has been run over.'
Usually, if an injury involves severe lasting pain, is causing immobility of a joint or limb, could be a suspected break or is simply too difficult to judge - you need to go to an ER. Don’t hesitate and don’t wait, just go, the worst they can say is 'You're fine.'
So when you have assessed your injury, maybe been to the ER, perhaps with a diagnosis and treatment plan, the very first thing to work on is your mindset. Mindset can lay the foundations for direction and speed of your recovery. Understand that recovery from injury can be a hard road, and your mindset can make or break you as you undertake the steps that are required to get better, so do not neglect this most important of first steps.
It is so easy to begin the process of healing thinking about how long it will take, how much time you will have to skip training and all of the things that may be hard about the recovery process. We can become depressed at the uphill battle in front of us, looking far into the future wishing it was now or today. If you look down into the calendar many months ahead, to the time when the doctor said you may be able to begin training again, you may feel depressed or anxious, and this will subconsciously affect focus during your initial recovery sessions.
Instead of thinking how long it will be until you feel better, try to understand that the worst has already occurred. The injury has reached its peak and from this day forward, you will feel progressively stronger, one day at a time. This simple change in mindset is one that can drastically alter the way in which you approach your recovery. You will be more active in your recovery process if you believe that every day you are getting better. It is a motivational mindset that will drive you to train, work and rehabilitate yourself in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t if you were to wallow in the length of time it will take to achieve recovery.
So the first thing to say is maintain the correct mindset in the recovery process, especially in the early days.
Protect the injury
So let's talk about these early days of an injury, maybe around the first week of recovery. During this time I will always try to protect and support the injury with some type of strapping or bandage. The aim here is to take the load off of injured or damaged tissues to allow the start of the healing process to begin. It is very important however to continue to move and mobilise the injury during this phase, just with a deep level of internal attention and maintaining support.
One of the biggest mistakes people make during this critical early phase of recovery is complete immobilisation. Unless the injury is a broken bone or a fully ruptured tendon - and you are waiting for surgery - you should be moving the area. Of course this should be extremely soft and very methodical movement with no sudden or weighted actions. The aim in this phase is to protect the injury, giving the area the support in needs to heal, while simultaneously keeping the area moving.
Here the FluidBody awareness training really comes into its own to ensure that you are moving with accurate gentle motions and not stressing the injury.
Release protective tension slowly and methodically
After the first week or so, I will start the process of releasing the 'protective' tension around the injury. This process of release can be prolonged and sometimes a little sore. Immediately after an injury and for that first week of support tension occurs in the body to support and protect the injured area. It is usually found in the form of inflammation, muscle tightness and immobility of joint angles. This tension often radiates out away from the affected area and can in fact permeate the entire body if we pay close attention.
The process of releasing this tension starts with the tension away from the site of the injury. The practice can often take the form of heavy body training including arm swings, spine hang and sway or breath lead release. I will slowly and methodically work my way towards the injured area softening and releasing as I do so. Eventually this process will get to the injured area itself and I will begin to slowly and softly free that area from tension.
This has a twofold effect. Firstly it will allow me to now mobilise and move the affected area more freely but it will also help my body to realise that the injury is actually needed for specific tasks, and this will speed up the healing process. The old adage of 'use it or lose it' seems very relevant here.
Breathing into the area and moving with breathing
After we have successfully released unwanted tension around the injury, we can begin the rehabilitation and healing work. The bulk of the work now resides in moving the injury and utilising our breathing to ensure that this movement is backed by good oxygenation and smoothness. One of the biggest errors I used to make when getting injured was to think that rehabilitation and 'rest' meant leaving an injured area completely immobile. This is a mistake in many instances of soft tissue damage. (Broken bones however are an obvious counter example where immobilisation is required)
By completely immobilising an area for prolonged periods, you actually end up atrophying the area. Musculature and connective tissues will lose their power and, in my opinion you don’t actually speed up the healing process. Understand that with the immobilisation model you will have to wait for injury to heal, then rehabilitate the injury, plus rehabilitate the resultant atrophy. Instead, I like to move the injury and get the area working as soon as I can, however slowly and softly that may be. This ensures that the body understands that the area is still needed and it had better ramp up that healing process!
However, there is a very important part of this mobilization that is, in my opinion, one of the keys to its success. The use of the breath. It can sometimes be quite hard to understand how, or why, the breath can be so powerful when mobilizing an injury. Many view the breathing cycle as primarily occurring in the lungs but the breath actually touches almost every tissue and cell in the body. Conscious, full breathing can make sure that oxygen is available for the healing process to be optimised. These full breaths can also produce releasing or relaxing effects that are equally as important in the whole healing picture.
Monitor progress week on week - Don’t rush to get back
A little rule that I like to follow when rehabilitating injuries is to continue the rehab work for a few weeks after I feel like I have fully recovered. This not only ensures that the injury is truly healed it helps us to ease back into normal training and life more gradually. Again, a mistake I have made many times is returning to normal duties too quickly. I can say with certainty - Do not make this mistake. It can become a never ending cycle of 'I think I am ok to train?' *re-injure* ... 'I think I am ok to train?' *re-injure*. So take your time and extend your rehab by a few more weeks, it could save you a few more months in the long run.
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on how you can heal or rehab injuries. Although I have not mentioned martial body modules very much here, know that they abound this work. From the releasing strategies of the HeavyBody attribute, to the internal awareness of the FluidBody; skill in the MartialBody process will give you the skill to find the right key to unlock the healing for the injury you have.