The Dos and Don’ts of Being Injured

From Tracey at I’m (not) Superhuman

There was a time in my life when I was the only gimp I knew. Crazy, right? And even though we don’t technically know each other, the power of the Internet has provided me with a number of other injured health freaks who I can commiserate with. Like Jess. She makes me feel better about being injured. So many thanks to her for letting me use her blog as a soapbox. And thanks to you for reading. (You’ll do that right?)

Before I get started, I thought I’d give you the movie trailer version of my injury: Tracey is an adventure-loving twentysomething who enjoyed sky diving and climbing glaciers until two knee injuries sideline her. Can she fight the five-year injuries before she’s old and gray? And when will her knees stop aching? No really, when? Anyone?

With that, here we go: If you happen to belong to the injury club (unlucky you) here are some dos and don’ts:

DO listen to every single person who tells you to rest. You’ll feel a strange urge to push your body to its limits and prove to all other injured people that, unlike them, you can handle the pain. You’ll regret this later. Trust me. Instead, give your body time to recoup.

DON’T visit a primary care doctor only. Listen, these doctors memorize mass amounts of medical knowledge but they don’t go as in depth as orthopedics or sports medicine docs. Your primary care doctor can give you a referral, but if you injure yourself don’t mess around. (Cue ominous music and scenes of me brutalizing my knee after a primary care doc gave me the go-ahead.)

DO feel bad for yourself. Go ahead, it’s bound to happen. But don’t spend too long at this stage or you’ll get all depressed and people will stop being your friend. Just kidding. Sorta. Listen, I’ve been the injured girl for years and it’s never fun. There’s not a day that goes by that I say, “Man, I’m so glad I’m the injured friend. Life would be too boring if I could walk around without pain.” Nope. But if you let the injury get the best of you not only will you be home on the couch, you’ll be there all alone because you’ll suck the fun out of every situation. So do the whole sulking thing, then figure out ways to have fun without being active. (Mass amounts of chocolate help, in case you were wondering.)

DO stay hopeful. At some point during your injury someone will tell you to have hope and you’ll want to smack them so hard they end up in tomorrow. Yeah, I’ve felt that way before. And yet here I am telling you to remain hopeful. I’m not nearly as hopeful as I should be. There are days when I sulk around the house, holding my knees and whining to my husband about how I’m somewhere deep in The Pit of Despair and I don’t even have Wesley from The Princess Bride to fight giant rats with me. (He then rolls his eyes and tells me to stop watching TV. But I digress.)

Anyhow, you’ll have those days but it’s important that they’re few. Keep hope that your body will get repaired, that you’ll be back to your old self, and at the very least that science will find a cure someday soon. As for me, I’m hopeful that I will discover a Delorian and go back to 2004 to have a good talking-to with my old self.

DON’T give up too soon. My first doctor handed me a sheet with exercises and told me to do those once a day for three months. I did, and my knees felt better. Too bad the pain came back a year later. The thing is, now that you’re injured, you need to keep strengthening your muscles and working to prevent future injuries. It’s a pain in the butt, but it’s worth it.

DO find support. I’d probably be on the floor screaming, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” if it weren’t for my husband. He’s the one who does all of the chores that involve standing. (Which is to say, all of the chores.) Even if you live alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sure, you might be all prideful when you first get injured. But you’ll do yourself some good if you suck it up and let people help you. They want to help you. Go figure.

DON’T be a passive patient. This really should be No. 1 because it’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned. A now-fired doctor told me that physical therapy was the only treatment for my knee. Sure, it’s the first line of defense for cartilage damage, but it’s not the only way. My next doctor gave me cortisone injections. And when he said there was nothing more to do other than exploratory surgery, I sought out a doctor who would do platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) on my knees. If PRP doesn’t work, I have a couple other treatments in mind.

The thing is, no one knows how maddening and frustrating and annoying and painful your injury is but you. No one knows how much you want to get better more than you do. So no one is going to fight as hard as you are. Don’t give up when the doctor shrugs his shoulders and says, “Looks like you’re out of options.” Do the research on your own. Seek out a second or third opinion. Find out what cutting-edge treatments might benefit you. And most of all, never accept defeat. It’s been five years since my injuries got really bad and I’m nowhere near the point of giving up. You shouldn’t be either.