I know it sounds crazy, but getting injured is sometimes a blessing in disguise. No one wants to get injured, obviously, but an injury is your bodies ‘check engine light’. The pain signal is your body saying “We have a problem and you need to fix me.” This theory doesn’t apply to a fracture, car accident, or some other injury of that nature. I’m talking about the gradual injury that comes on over time, or the injury that just pops up out of nowhere.
Why Do I Get Pain?
If you get hurt, it hurts! I know, that was profound. Let’s talk about why it hurts when you get injured. We have millions of nerves running through our bodies.
These nerves bring information from our body to the brain, telling our brain what we are feeling and what we are doing. The brain then processes this information (like a giant computer) and tells our bodies if that is okay, and/or how to move differently to avoid it. The brain is receiving so much information all the time that it needs to be selective about what is really a problem. For instance, if you touch a hot pot, your nervous system tells you to MOVE! That is a preservation loop that doesn’t even reach your brain because it would take too long. In most cases though, your brain is allowing you to move and do things that are slightly problematic because it isn’t the biggest problem on the problem list. In most cases it’s not life threatening.
As a result you are always compensating and getting through life. After a while though, you are slowly building up inflammation due to the compensatory movements. Eventually it gets to the point where it does become a problem that your brain can’t ignore anymore. It will then throw up the red flag (pain) and say “Hey, we’ve been compensating because I didn’t think it was a problem. Well...I was wrong. So now you have a problem, and you need to fix me.”
Why Injuries are a Good Thing
This brings me back to what I was saying about injuries being a good thing. If you didn’t get injured you would never know you have been moving wrong and compensating. I will give you my real life example. I love golf and wish I was professional so I could play 36 holes a day and get paid for it. That is not my reality though, so I am forced to play infrequently on the weekends. About a month ago I was taking a swing and BANG, pain in my elbow. I was very upset (I would have written something worse but this is a family show). I waited all winter long, and through the rain that would never stop, and now I have elbow pain! It forced me to look at my swing and what I was doing wrong. The silver lining is now I have an improved swing that will not put strain on my elbow so I can play more with less risk of injury. If I didn’t get injured I would have never known that.
So what does this all mean for you? If you have pain, stop working around it. Try to figure out where the pain is coming from and fix it. There are so many different screening processes that we use as PTs that highlight compensations you didn’t even know you had. If you work on balancing out your strength and flexibility issues, you are far less likely to have your check engine light come on when you least expect it.
If you have any questions please contact me or make an appointment right here on the OrthoCore Physical Therapy website!. Thank you for reading. I hope your check engine light stays off.