Three months ago, I injured my knee whilst playing basketball. No, I’m not a competitive athlete, but yes, I was convinced that the odds of me, a physio, sustaining one of the most feared injuries known to the sporting world were practically minute. I mean, I teach people how to move their joints and activate their muscles to prevent injury for a living. But alas, that fateful night as the buzzer alarmed to signal ‘game on’, I ran my little heart out and gave it my all on the basketball court.
I was simply dribbling the ball and stopped to change direction. Suddenly my knee felt like the two joints decided they no longer wanted to be in close proximity. I fell to the floor and lay there reassuring myself it was just a minor sprain, but deep down I knew that there was nothing minor about what just happened. Fast forward two months, one surgery, hours of rehabilitation and many tears, I guess you could say I’ve learnt a thing or two about recovering from an injury. Today I wanted to share the top 5 things I’ve learnt from tearing my ACL and having undergone reconstructive surgery.
Listen to your body
The night I went to play basketball, I was extremely fatigued. I had spent the day painting a bathroom ceiling at my fiancé’s house. I was zapped of energy, but decided a caffeine hit was all I needed to play optimally. Unfortunately, this only gave me a false sense of strength and vigour. When you push your muscles and joints repetitively despite feeling fatigued, you put yourself at higher risk of injury. Fatigue can sometimes speak in the form of a niggle or a mild ache. Regardless, take heed and don’t be afraid of resting or just not going as ‘hard out’.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Family and friends are invaluable when you sustain an injury. One of the greatest struggles with being incapacitated is warring with that voice that tells you that ‘I’m just a bother to people’, or that ‘people get so annoyed when I ask for help’. I struggled with this A LOT….And then I would get down…. and not want to do my exercises, which made me even more depressed because I wasn’t improving.. which would then set me off on a cycle of defeat. Silence the negative voices with the truth that there is no shame in asking for help.
Movement is actually GOOD for your body
Straight after my surgery, I was in A LOT of pain. No one ever told me it would be so painful! And yet, in spite of the pain, I needed to begin moving my knee and putting weight on it from the get go. It’s a bit of a paradox. But graduated and sensible amounts of movement, guided by a physiotherapist, are actually healthy for any painful or operated joint (unless otherwise specified by your surgeon).
Surgery is never a ‘quick fix’
Some people wrongly assume that opting for surgery as opposed to conservative treatment will allow them to bypass the hard work of rehabilitation. This simply isn’t true. After any form of joint surgery, the muscles surrounding the joint immediately weaken, and pain and swelling will restrict joint motion. Without exercise it is impossible to completely restore full pain free function.
If you want to get better, you will have to work for it
I know this sounds odd, but apart from being able to better empathise with my patients, the only other pro of having torn my ACL was knowing I would learn to become more self-disciplined (something I’ll admit I’m not great at!) Rehab following ACL surgery is ANYTHING but easy. Every morning and every night I need to do my exercises. I remember one week I had been super lazy, and I had to seriously ask myself this question: ‘’Do you even want to get better Jasmine?’’ Because if I was to be completely honest, I was settling. Settling for the way I was because at least I could walk now without crutches.. that’s good, right? Wrong. What about being able to run again? Or snowboard? Or play basketball? If I wanted to get back to these, I needed to daily commit to my rehab. Sure, I would feel tired after work, or I would have a bad day and the last thing I felt like doing was some squats or lunges. But there is something so empowering about choosing to do something even if you don’t feel like it, because you know it’s good for you and going to benefit you in the long run.
I hope these bits of wisdom have been helpful and reminded you that you’re not alone. Be encouraged that rehabilitation is a journey with good and bad days. I’ll end it with a quote that at first glance appears dismal but is really quite hopeful-
“the pain of obedience is better than the pain of regret”- Unknown
Originally published 10/05/2017