Being injured is tiring…Rehabilitation of multiple injuries is exhausting!
Since my little mishap a couple of weeks ago when I fell about 15ft on my head while hiking in the Adirondacks I’ve been dealing with two specific injuries that I’ve been aggressively self rehabilitating.
The most bothersome one is in my neck area which is understandable since I landed almost directly on my head when I fell. The symptoms seem to resemble whiplash from a bad car accident. I couldn’t turn my head from side to side for over a week.
The other spot I am concentrating on is my left knee where a contusion that filled with blood has hardened so it looks like I have two kneecaps!
I have undertaken an aggressive self therapy regimen since I had about 3 weeks to heal up enough in order to still be active in a Road Trip (to the Badlands, Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons) that was planned several months earlier with two other buddies. We plan on doing a lot of hiking so I literally had two real weeks (after a week of rest/moderate stretching) to do enough effective rehab.
- Trigger Point Therapy for the Neck
- Strengthening Exercises
- Hot/Cold Therapy
Cardio, careful cardio; is important for three reasons.
1. I still need to be in shape if I’m going to be doing all the hiking and sightseeing I anticipate on doing
2. It’s really critical in my opinion that keeping your body moving even when you have an injury so that muscles don’t stiffen up, especially at the point of injury.
3. It’s always easier to stretch and do other parts of my self rehab when my body is warmed up, even if its just a light sweat.
So I always try to incorporate some type of cardio before I do any rehabilitation.
The type of cardio depends on how you feel and what kind of injury you have. I have a knee injury that limits my range of motion for that leg and a neck injury so I try to stay away from anything that will cause jarring motions. In the beginning I have been using the ARC trainer which is really smooth and the rower which is a great machine. Both of these are pretty smooth on your body when being used, creating resistance without a lot of impactful, jarring motions.
Trigger Point Therapy for the Neck
I have been using two different things that have been amazingly effective for my neck. First is self release of trigger points in my neck with my fingers, a method I learned from my chiropractor a few months back when I was having some problems with a facet joint in my neck.
I find the hard nodules in my neck and press VERY FIRMLY on them for a few seconds. Then I gently use one hand to pull my head to one side and stretch the neck while using my forefinger and middle finger or my thumb to press VERY, VERY FIRMLY in one direction. Starting a little above the nodule and stopping a little below the nodule. I do this at several nodule points on my neck and it has been immensely effective at relieving the pressure that builds up there. I find that it doesn’t take much for you neck to get really stiff, especially during work when you are dealing with stress and staring at your computer for long periods.
The second thing I do is to use my trusty Bodybackbuddy tool when my fingers get tired and also my shoulders and upper back area. Of course the neck is connected to the entire back area so I have found that the stiffness and tightness at my neck is spreading towards my back/shoulders. The Bodybackbuddy is a really effective weapon against tight muscles in the back and I have two of them, one for home and one for the office.
You can read about my review of the Bodybackbuddy here.
This is an absolute must…EVERYDAY.
Not only does stretching at the gym in the morning feel amazing and helps me get ready for the day, it helps lengthen my muscles and restores the range of motion I have lost due to injury.
For my neck I like to sit on my legs (carefully since it really stretches out the blood filled contusion right above my knee), with my back very straight but loose. Then I carefully move my neck around in all possible positions as far as possible. I only do a small motion at first to warm the neck up then progress to larger motions that to right to the edge of my range of motion. Be very careful here as you can sometimes overdo it and get a stab of pain. (your body’s warning system!)
For my legs I like to use the foam roller to break up the muscles that tighten up. I have used it ever since my bout with ITBS (Illiotibial Band Syndrome) while hiking in the Adirondacks for the first time. I use it since I never want to experience pain like that again!
I do two sets of neck strengthening exercises that seem to be helping.
The first one I do laying down on the ground. I bring my head up off the ground slowly and either aim towards my chest or straight up at the ceiling. I should note that I hear a lot of crackling noises in my neck while I am doing this exercise. I’m pretty sure it is coming from the muscles and it’s almost reassuring because they have slowly been going away as I keep rehabbing. Once I feel pretty good just doing those two motions I slowly move my head up and to the right or the left at an angle.
The second set of strengthening I do is again at a seated position on my knees (you could do this sitting down on something I suppose). I bring my right hand up to the side of my face while staring straight ahead and try to turn my head to the right. You don’t actually move your head because you are using your hand as resistance and therefore working your neck muscles. Repeat the procedure on your left side. Finally I use both of my hands on my forehead with the palms facing outwards and push against my hands.
I have been using a TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) and/or EMS (Electrical muscle stimulation) machine I purchased a few months ago on the contusion on my knee. The Electrical muscle stimulation should in theory bring more blood to the area so that the lump can be broken down faster. I also use it to bring more blood to my LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) to bring more blood flow to the area to promote healing for the remnants of the LCL injury I have.
It was my first experience with the unit I purchased and I have to say I am extremely satisfied with it. There are many different versions out there but I bought mine on Amazon, it is portable and comes with a handy case. It also has 4 ports so 8 pads can be affixed to the body at once, the most I have used is 4. It also gets great reviews from users on Amazon. Something I will definitely be using again in the near future I’m sure.
I try to limit my use of the TENS/EMS unit to every other day to give my muscles a chance to recover. So far I have noticed that the lump above my knee cap has decreased about 60% so I’m very pleased.
I use cold therapy (ice packs/pads) whenever I have worked hard on the neck or the knee. It gives me relief and reduces any swelling that may have occurred do to the strenuous workout. Again being injured as often as I am, I have two cold packs in the freezer at work and 3 in the freezer at home!
At work I use the Thermacare Heatwraps, the Neck, Wrist and Shoulder ones. Its a little bit more expensive than the generic ones you can get at a drug store but after trying out several different manufacturers I definitely pony up a little extra for the Thermacare’s brand. They stick better to your skin (careful get it on the right location because moving them around too much looses their stickiness) and keep the right amount of heat at the injured location for the longest amount of time. You can find them at almost any drug store and a few grocery stores.
For Heat Therapy at home I like to use my TheraTherm Digital Moist Heating Pad. The deep penetrating moist heat (This amazing device draws moisture from the air!) that the unit produces without needing a microwave is soothing and provides an insane amount of relief. I purchased the unit after using a microwavable beanbag that I used to heat up over and over after the heat dissipated within a few minutes. I got sick of getting up from whatever I was doing to reheat the stupid bag! The TheraTherm unit just works, and it works better than any bean bag, not to mention that it has an electronic interface where you can adjust different settings.
You can check out my complete review of the Theratherm Digital Moist Heating Pad here.
Since you are doing a lot of activities where you are breaking up the muscle fiber, there will be a lot of toxins released so it’s extremely important to drink water. WATER, not a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade. Can’t beat the purity and cleanliness of ice cold water to flush away toxins and keep your muscles hydrated. I swear I can feel the water working it’s way down my body sometimes!
Like I said at the beginning it’s exhausting to maintain this regiment and my body knows it! The last few weeks I have been tired and lethargic even if I have not been doing anything strenuous.
Sometimes I think that my aggressive rehabilitation strategy might be taking too much of a toll on my body but my 2 week long road trip is literally just around the corner and I want to have as much of a fully functioning body as possible.
There is a fine line between pushing the limits of your recover and pushing it too far. You really have to be attuned to your body because you know your body best. For example this past week I have ramped up my resistance and activity at the gym in the morning and I can definitely feel the effects of it in the mid afternoons at work. It gets really miserable sometimes but I remind myself that I’m repairing my body by providing it the correct amount of resistance!
It takes patience and perseverance to get over an injury each day can seemly drag by because it takes over your life! If your doing the right things though you will get better, I’ve done it more times than I can count!
Sometimes it takes a monetary investment on top of the time investment to speed your recovery. I ask myself which is more important? Money? or the time you can save by purchasing the right tools to recover as quickly as possible? I have to say that these two particular injuries have really made me utilize the muscle therapy tools I have in my arsenal!!