How to Do Nothing

© Nevit Dilmen, for WikiMedia Commons

© Nevit Dilmen, for WikiMedia Commons

I’m a month into my knee injury.  It’s been a tough month, but could have been much worse – it could have not essentially been off-season, we could have had bouts, I could have missed a tournament, I could have had real-life stuff that couldn’t be interrupted.

As far as injury timing goes – I lucked out.

But a month in, I started to get frustrated.  I was making improvement – my range of movement is increasing, I can bear weight on the injured leg, I can walk up and down stairs unassisted.  I’m doing awesome and should start just rehabbing aggressively, right?

Wrong.

As per my physio, now is the time for me to do nothing.

Ugh.  Doing nothing is not in my nature.  It made me want to get a second opinion  If, as I hope, the tearing is minor and will repair itself with careful rehab, then why can’t I start it now?

Here’s why (and I say this all the time to other skaters at my league, but it’s hard to hear myself) – The absence of pain does not mean full recovery.  The times you do yourself the most damage are often the times you’re feeling better and try to push it. Keeping to the status quo will ensure clear imaging on the MRI since you won’t have swelling from overuse or re-injury.  Just maintaining and managing the daily pain is sometimes enough.

In my first post about my injury, I talked about how it’s important to Do Something when you first hurt yourself.  It absolutely is.  But once you start feeling better (but are still in pain and can’t do things normally), sometimes you need to Do Nothing.

(please note: Doing Nothing means doing nothing new, rather than literally nothing – it means listening to your doctor if they seem logical, even if you’re dying to push yourself. That extra .25″ ROM in your flexion isn’t worth a blurry MRI that could delay your diagnosis even further.)

(also note: If your doctor doesn’t seem logical or your styles just don’t mesh, absolutely get a second opinion.  But make sure you’re not just shopping for the answer you want to hear.)

This ordeal is teaching me that the health care system has its challenges – mostly time and money.  It’s a balancing act to know whether to spend your health dollars before or after a diagnosis.  Do you spend on pain management or recovery?  There’s no easy answer – and I live in Canada where lots of things are free – I can’t even imagine what it’s like in countries where you pay for all of your tests as well as treatment.  And then there’s the time it takes for things to happen.  It took me a month to get a referral for an MRI, and then my MRI appointment was scheduled for a month from now.  Then another week for results.  THEN a plan for recovery.  That’s a lot of time to Do Nothing.

Here’s what you can do with that time – advocate for yourself.  Get on the cancellation list for your tests. Hound the clinic or hospital, read about your injury, learn about how to interpret your tests, do the pyhsio that’s prescribed faithfully, take notes on what’s been said about your condition thus far.  Whatever you do, try not to focus on your frustration or the depression that comes with injury.  Try to learn from your injury, rather than just suffer through it.

Though sometimes waiting for a test is like looking for love – once you give up, BOOM, there it is.

I had resigned myself to a LONG ASS month of waiting.  As soon as I sucked it up, and stopped (for the most part) feeling sorry for myself, I got the call to come in.  A week instead of a month?  I’ll take it!

So now, I wait for diagnosis and a plan.  And I Do Nothing.  Despite my inclinations, it’s what’s best for me to do.  And maybe, depending on your injury (concussions, nagging re-injuries because you don’t ever let it heal all the way, and so on – I’m looking at you), Doing Nothing is exactly what you should do.

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5 Comments

  1. Good job, buddy! Be great at doing nothing!

  2. As a fitness and wellness type of person I have a hard time understanding why I am drawn to competetive sports where injury is a possibility. Lol But with the rib injury I felt it necissary to figure out what I could still do so that I didn’t completley compromise training. Which makes sense. You can work different muscle groups likely. But I think it is very mature as an athlete to accept when there are times that rest really is an active part of healing. And growth as a fitnessy person too (as I am sure you are aware.) I am seeing better muscle growth with increased rest even. Appreciate the post!

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