This blog comes from a mishmash of influences – namely having ‘The 5am Club’ on my recent audiobook accounts and having Brad Pitt’s Moneyball on my recent movie collection. One aspect of this book and this movie can be similarly applied to physiotherapy, recovering from an injury and regaining peak performance. Namely, that ‘hitting goals is NOT a case of hitting home runs. It is a case of consistently hitting singles.’ It is the case of these small, regular steps that form a basis for success.
In an overly simplistic summation of physiotherapy, we live in a society that demands a quick fix. After watching another movie last night, I realized this is epitomized in American culture whereby the rates of prescription pharmaceuticals far surpass other countries in the developed world. Many have a shockingly poor lifestyle, and counteract the effects of this neglect with pharmaceuticals as opposed to fixing the underlying problem. Australia is definitely not as bad, however we are not that far behind. In physiotherapy, the majority of injuries stem from a prolonged period of neglect – until eventually, our bodies reach a tipping point. Our short term treatments – massage, dry needling, stretching and mobilisation – can temporarily address this neglect. However, it should also be a time where we can reflect and begin to address the underlying cause.
Furthermore, this principle can apply to both physical and psychological ‘injuries’. Our psychological illnesses are most common in those who have suffered a myriad of emotional traumas throughout their lifespan – whether this be dysfunctional family settings or emotional abuse in a bad relationship – it is generally the cumulative effect of these issues that result in our longstanding mental illnesses.
This is even something that I can personally attest to. My 30th year has been more riddled with injuries than any other period of my life. Now, I can usually shrug this off in regular conversation as the decline that happens at this point of the lifespan – but with personal reflection, that isn’t the real reason. Personally, I can identify a longstanding neglect to looking after my physical health as I focused more on developing the business. Normally, as a regular gym user and participant in physical activity; these activities were replaced with longer working hours and a priority towards social and networking commitments. This is commonplace in friends and colleagues who have similarly prioritised starting their family, earning a promotion and other social engagements.
Coming from a good background of physical activity, this afforded me a ‘buffer’ of neglect, however I am now finding that my body is starting to betray me. Reflecting on the most common injuries presenting to physiotherapy, this longstanding period of neglect can be a number of factors, such as:
- Simply neglecting general physical activity and gradually becoming deconditioned over time.
- Neglecting training variety – this could be the weight-lifter training ‘chest day’ 3x week, but neglecting the other portions of their body to achieve ‘muscle balance.’ This could be the distance runner, who, although may achieve a healthy dose of total weekly physical activity, does not supplement their training with appropriate cross or resistance training. This could be the weight lifter who wouldn’t be caught dead in the stretching area. Similarly, this could be the yogi who doesn’t supplement their stretch-based exercise with strengthening exercise!
It is for this reason that we do not have to view pain and injury as a negative thing. Instead, this is our body telling us that we need to rectify our behaviour – and cease this neglect!
Now, the body is an AMAZING thing! Often, simply doing the ‘right thing’ by your injury can dramatically decrease or even rectify our issue in a matter of weeks.
We may even find that we are simply not in a space to deal with this long term neglect. Personally, for a period of time I chose to simply manage my injuries/areas of tightness with short-term techniques – dry needling, remedial massage, joint mobilisations – knowing that the long term solution to preventing their recurrence was to regain my physical conditioning. This is not the wrong answer, and may simply reflect our present goal. However, we can not neglect our health in the long term.
“Health is a golden crown, placed on the brow of the healthy; that only the sick can see” – Egyptian Proverb
Yet, for many, we may be dealing with recurrent or chronic pain. Furthermore, we may be ready to start our recovery. Yet, faced with this long term goal, we can often feel like we are starting at the beginning of a steep climb where we simply do not have the capacity to complete the climb in one hit.
Small regular steps build a solid base for success.
Despite what your motivational t-shirts may say, research has now shown that the biggest determinant of physical success in a gym-based environment is not the amount of effort you put into each training session. It is simply the number of times each week that you attend the gym that determines your success.
You may be dealing with a long-standing injury, and you may understand that a lengthy rehabilitation time is required. But the best thing you can do is simply get started. It is rare that we can truely dedicate the time and effort required to recover completely from a longstanding injury in one hit. Furthermore, these longstanding injuries often have a complex ‘bio’, ‘psycho’ and ‘social’ effect.
But what we can do is put in a little bit of effort each day. Turn up. We can start the journey towards our recovery.
‘Hitting our goal is NOT a case of hitting home runs. It is a case of consistently hitting singles.’
Going back to my Moneyball reference. As Billy Beane would say… ‘we aren’t expecting you to hit home runs. We are expecting you to get on base.’
At Move Physiotherapy, it is our commitment to each person that we can not only treat your pain and discomfort, but we can help you navigate your way to a healthier lifestyle. Please feel free to reach out if there is ever anything we can do to help!
Move Physiotherapy and Fitness