How to Stay Sane When Injured

As you probably know by now, I am injury prone, and just had surgery to fix an ongoing problem in my knee. Throughout my career as a dancer, and now a fitness professional, I’ve faced various amounts of time off due to injures, and have slowly learnt to accept that when my body says stop, I need to listen to it. Being that my job has always been physical, time off often means a lot of time at home on my own, which can have a psychological effect too. Injuries can be so frustrating, but I’ve found some ways to stay sane when I can’t do the thing I love every day.Health, fitness, injury

Don’t Rush It

Hands up, who’s pushed an injury too far and needed to take more time off than was originally necessary. Yep, me too. As frustrating as it is, doctors and physiotherapists usually know what they’re talking about. If they say rest, then rest. By all means, smash out your rehab exercises, but don’t run before you can walk…literally.

Train What You Can

On the flip side of resting when you’re told to rest, do think about what you can do that won’t affect the injured part. For example, if you’ve broken your ankle, you can still do some light upper body work, maybe some core work too. If it’s a dislocated shoulder, then as long as you can keep your balance, get some lunges or squats in or pop into a static bike. Be cautious though, raising your heart rate can increase swelling in the injured area as blood rushes around the whole body. Keep an eye on it, and stop if you experience any throbbing or excessive swelling in the area.

Find a Non-Active Hobby

Take up something new, or dust off your old guitar, paint brushes, or knitting and practise something that doesn’t require physical exertion. You won’t just exercise your brain, but you’ll also find a means of distraction from pain, discomfort or boredom. If you’re really laid up, then something as simple as mindful colouring might be enough to stop the endless Netflix binge, just for an hour or two. If you can stand and cook, then try a new recipe, or bake a cake. You’ll be proud of your achievement, and who knows, you might discover a new talent.

Be Mindful

I don’t just mean be mindful of your injury, but be mindful of the world around you. If you’re forced to walk slowly, instead of being frustrated by this, take it as an opportunity to see the world around you as you walk. Take it all in, use all your senses and you might find a renewed appreciation for your local park, or even your daily commute. Practise meditation as well. If you’re stuck at home, potentially on your own, it’s going to be a time where anxious or negative thoughts are harder to dispel. Take 15 minutes each day to meditate, use an app if you need to, and you’ll find you can approach your injury and recovery in a more positive way.fitness, health, injury

I’m trying to apply all these things to my current knee injury, and it’s not easy! There are days where I’m grumpy, frustrated and bored, but that’s ok too. Life isn’t always calm, serene and blissful, but if you try and roll with the punches, be kind to yourself and accept what’s happening, you’ll come out the other side calmer and able to see the positives.

Photo credit: Elle Linton.

Preparing For Surgery – My Personal Guide

Despite my best efforts, unfortunately I’m no stranger to injury and injury related surgery. In my *almost* 32 years on this planet, I’ve been told my injury list reads like that of a 75 year old and I’ve had, as of yesterday, 6 surgical procedures. All bar one of those operations have been in the last 12 years. Through my own experiences, I’ve found a few things that have really helped me both before and after surgery. Now remember, I’m not a doctor, these are just my personal experiences and how they’ve worked for me.

Find Your Support Network

Firstly, you will usually be required to have a chaperone take you home from hospital, and that’s non-negotiable if you’ve had a full anaesthetic. Arrange this early on with someone you trust and who you are really comfortable with. You are going to be in the dozy post-anaesthetic phase, possibly feeling nauseous, in pain, and wanting to sleep or cry….or both. I’ve always gone to my Mum’s after each of my surgeries, there’s nothing better than Mum time, but whoever you choose, prepare them for a grumpy, soggy, cloudy version of you, possibly high on morphine as well.

Going back to before the surgery, it’s not required but you might want someone in hospital with you beforehand as well. My arrival time for this week’s surgery is an eye-watering 6am, but I know from experience that I won’t be taken into the operating theatre until at least 8am or 9am. Why so early? You might ask. Well there are potentially lots of people on the surgeon’s list that day, they all need their observations, a chat with the anaesthetist, a final check in with the surgeon, after-care explained (remember the post-anaesthetic brain fog), and to generally get comfortable. It can be a long, anxious wait, and unless you’re in a private hospital, you could be in a ward full of other people waiting too. Having someone with you to chat with will pass the time, and calm your nerves. I’m lucky enough to be having this done privately, meaning I have my own room with a TV, but company before the op will still be a welcome distraction.

After surgery, depending on what it is of course, you might need help at home with cooking, cleaning and maybe even showing and dressing. Grab your support network; friends, partner, colleagues, flatmates, those who you’re comfortable with, and ask them to be around in case you need anything. Don’t be afraid, don’t sit in pain, hungry and embarrassed to ask for their help. This is a time where you cannot do everything for yourself, despite being Miss Independent, especially if doing too much might hinder your recovery.

Plan Ahead

Most likely you’ll have planned all the technical things with your surgeon beforehand, but there are a few things I’ve found to be really helpful when I’m not so mobile and not so able to do things for myself.

Bulk cook food – Having a hearty chilli, bolognese, chicken stew or soup in the freezer is such a good idea. For the days when you perhaps can’t call on someone to help you, or you simply haven’t got anything to cook, popping a pre-prepared meal in the microwave is going to be a lifesaver. When your body is healing and recovering you need to be well nourished.

Clean the house – If you’re going to be on crutches, then you can’t be tripping over junk in the hallway or that pile of clothes at the end of your bed. If you can have a good tidy up before the day of the operation, and if your injury prevents you from doing that, then maybe treat yourself to a professional clean. Alternately, remember your support network? Pick the most ‘Monica-like’ and ask them to help.

Do your laundry – Bed sheets, clothes, dressing gown, towels. There’s nothing nicer than clean sheets when you’re not quite feeling yourself, so having all that done for when you return home will be so comforting. The same applies for your favourite pyjamas, and your comfy clothes. You’ll likely be living in these for a few days, if not more, so make sure they’re clean and ready.

Breathe

The thing I’m most worried about is the general anaesthetic. I don’t like being put to sleep, not having control and going into this empty dreamland. I’ve also had bad reactions upon waking before which make me more anxious about the aftermath. On the flip-side of that, having a local anaesthetic isn’t my cup of tea either, so I’m not sure which I’d rather.

I’ve been practising some breathing techniques to help me cope with the nerves before surgery, and at the moment of being put under anaesthetic. Also, my therapist suggest a little mindfulness and visualisation as well, to help calm my head on the morning of.

Take deep breaths – The more anxious we’re feeling, the more shallow our breathing becomes. Taking three deep breaths can help to settle nerves, filling the lungs with oxygen and calming the parasympathetic nervous system. Think of breathing in for 4 counts, and breathing out for 6 or 8.

Visualise your happy place – pick a place where you have always felt calm and happy. That could be your bed, childhood home, a bath, or holiday spot. Mine is my favourite beach near my Dad’s house in Portugal listening to the waves crashing. Just as the anaesthetist starts preparing to send you to sleep, have this image firmly in your head and you’ll be in that happy place for the whole time you’re under.

Don’t Rush Recovery

This is one I really have to pay attention to myself. Listen to the doctors, physiotherapists and specialists when they tell you to rest, and recuperate. Don’t wait until you’re in excruciating pain to take your painkillers, and admit to yourself that you’ll have to rest for a while. The effects of the anaesthetic can be long lasting in some cases, and feeling groggy, emotional and weak comes hand in hand with that. It can feel very frustrating, but know that it’s only temporary.

Now I’m back home with my Mum and enjoying some R&R, I can see how each of the points above helped me through the operation. I’m looking forward to getting back to my flat in a few days because I’ve got lots of food prepped, clean towels and a tidy house all ready and waiting for me. I’ve got lots of friends offering to pop over for company and food, and the cat is always on hand for a hug. My recovery will be slow and steady, but if I am good with my physiotherapy exercises, don’t rush things and look after myself, I’ll be back on my feet in no time!

The Hypermobile Yogi – Classes

Inspired by an article on Yoga International (shared by yoga teacher Adam Husler), I’ve decided to take a moment to show how having Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS) affects me as a yogi. It’s been a long while since I shared ‘My Hypermobile Life’ with you all, and I’m going to try to not repeat myself too much, but as each year (and injury) goes by, I get a better understanding of how my complicated body works…or doesn’t as the case may be. I’m going to break my yoga experiences down into 3 posts; Asanas. Classes. Recovery.

yoga, yogabloggers, hypermobility

Don’t lock your elbow. Don’t sink into your hip. Don’t overly twist your neck.

Class Planning

Through chatting to my own clients, most people’s approach to classes and working out is; Sunday night – plan and book classes for the week, go to class, get a sweat on, go home. It may sound ridiculous, but I have to consider a whole lot more before deciding whether to go to class or not.

Firstly, is my body ok? I listen intently to my body and pay close attention to niggles, aches and pains. With JHS, I suffer with chronic pain at times, so I’m used to being in pain, what I have to pay attention to is new pain, and decipher whether that’s something simple like ‘I’ve popped my shoulder out while asleep’ – yep, that happens – or something more sinister. Saying that however, I’d probably still go to class!

yoga, yogabloggers, hypermobility

Don’t turn your elbows backwards. Don’t just drop your chest. Don’t pop your shoulders.

Secondly is what kind of class my body needs. People with JHS suffer with chronic pain, heart palpitations (I also have a heart condition, or two), low blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems and depression. This is due to the body producing more adrenaline to compensate for the extra elasticity in the blood vessels. If I want to go to class, I have to decide whether it’s a fast paced, dynamic practice, a hot yoga session, or a slower, deeper, more technical class. On a day where I simply want to curl up and stay in bed…I’ll book into one of my favourite teachers’ classes and make myself go, regardless of the style, and I’ll just practice cautiously. I never regret going to yoga!

Other Classes

In terms of non-yoga classes, that’s a whole other ball game! High impact classes are almost a no-go for me, and other classes such as boxing, aerial or ballet have to be considered according to what else has been happening that week. Sometimes, I simply opt for a gym session where I can tailor my workout to what I need.

yoga, yogabloggers, hypermobility

Don’t crunch your lower back. Don’t drop your neck back. Don’t pop your shoulders.

During class, other than controlling my joints during each asana, it’s essential to consider the transitions between each posture. Sometimes, if I stand up from the sofa too fast, I get that head rush feeling, imagine how intense that can get in a hot yoga room, returning from a deep backbend. Add to that the likelihood that I might have crunched down on my neck in said backbend, that’s a recipe for passing out. Slow and steady wins the race, and even in super-charged Rocket Yoga, it’s important to take an extra breath of stillness when needed.

Keeping all that in mind, my decision to go to yoga is often made the morning of the class. I’d love to pre-plan my weeks to include classes, as most often I take the same classes each week, but I can’t predict how my body will feel. Quite often in the past, I have been overambitious with my body, and have had to cancel last minute.

yoga, yogabloggers, hypermobiltiy

Breathe!

Once I’ve done class, it becomes about recovery and making sure I don’t hurt the next day. Through nutrition and taking care of myself with adequate rest, it’s time to listen to my body and think about when my next class will be. My next post will focus on A Hypermobile Yogi – The Recovery.

All Images: Will Patrick

Review | LightStim for Pain

I’m not one for taking painkillers, I don’t like to mask the pain as there’s usually a reason for it, and it’s often a cue for me to listen to my body a bit more. But when it comes to having, and recovering from, any kind of surgery, it’s certainly advisable to take what you’re given in hospital. I don’t react well to morphine as it causes my oxygen saturation levels to drop, so while I can be given morphine in hospital, as long as my SATs are monitored, I am a bit limited when I’m at home.

Pain relief needn’t always be in pill form however, as there are various alternatives to your standard paracetamol or ibuprofen. From ultrasound and pain relieving gels, to steroid injections, and LED therapy, pain relief can be directed at specific areas and avoid the blanket digestion via the stomach and intestines. This is where LightStim comes in.

lightstim, pain, health, injury

Upon hearing that I was about to have knee surgery a few months ago, LightStim kindly sent me their pain relieving device. A revolutionary system of LED lights designed to provided target pain relief for joints and muscles, in a quick 10 minute session. Although probably not strong enough to immediately post-surgery, I was looking forward to seeing how it worked when I started physiotherapy and exercise again, knowing that I’d suffer aches and pains for a while to come.

The Science

If you’re intrigued as to how shining a light on your aches and pains could possibly work, you’re not alone, I wanted to find out the science behind it too. LEDs contain tiny computer chips that emit different wavelengths of lights to create unique therapeutic benefits. These wavelengths – light red, dark red, infrared and deep infrared – combine to increase blood circulation, thus reducing inflammation and receiving pain. LightStim can also aid healing, as an increase of blood circulation also means and increased amount of the blood cells that contain healing properties in the affected area. Approved by the FDA in America, LED light therapy has been thoroughly tested and provides a non-invasive, chemical-free alternative to pain relief.

lightstim, pain, health, injury

So, as I got myself back into gentle exercise and started to increase my teaching again, I started putting my LightStim to good use. A quick 10-minute session is all it needed before bed to prevent excessive stiffness and soreness the day after a workout or intense physio session. A little side effect I noticed was that it felt like the LED technology was warming my knee up from the inside, giving it a little internal blanket or bandage.This was probably from the increased blood flow, but it felt nice! I definitely felt the benefit of regular LED sessions as I put more work through my knee, and still use it now, 6 months post-surgery.

lightstim, pain, health, injury

If, like me, you’re prone to joint pain, arthritis, or muscular injury, investing in a LightStim might be beneficial for those little niggles. Personally, I don’t think it’s quite suitable for the treatment of acute injury, but for those aches and pains, perhaps from a chronic condition, it’s definitely a good idea! LightStim also has a product specifically for targeting acne, and wrinkles..! Working in the same way by stimulating blood flow, LightStim for Wrinkles is proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles….I’m intrigued (and tempted) by that too!

lightstim, pain, health, injury

LightStim kindly gifted me with this product, all words my own. Please see Disclaimer for more information.

Injury Chronicles #3

It’s about time I updated you all on this knee injury! Since my last Injury Chronicles Post, there’s been quite a lot of development, and not all of it good I’m afraid. As you know, there was two things going on with my troublesome knee, so here’s a little recap.

knee fitness, injury, mri scan

The problem with my knee was two-fold, I was suffering from an impingement of the fat pad under the knee cap, and, to quote, ‘quite a lot of fissuring’ to the cartilage behind my knee cap. The fat pad impingement was a vicious circle where the tissue was getting swollen, and then catching on the knee cap whenever I bent my knee. The more it caught, the more is swelled, and the more it swelled, the more it caught…nightmare! The cartilage damage was due to over-use and exacerbated by some over-zealous yoga.

So I last reported that I’d had a steroid injection in my knee to provide a big dose of anti-inflammatory hydro-cortisone  and hopefully ease the pain. A few weeks later and I could see improvement in one aspect of the issue, the impingement, but the improvement stopped there. I’ve been working hard on my physiotherapy exercises to improve the muscular connections around the knee, and to prevent tension around my hip from pulling in the knee-cap, but to cut a long story short, it’s not gotten much better.

knee injury,

 

Back to the consultant I went to talk about what to do next. As my pain has only improved by 20/30% and it should have improved by 60/70%, surgical intervention was recommended. Being that this is private health care (extremely grateful I took out Vitality Health Insurance at the beginning of this year), it’s now all happening very quickly and I’m in for surgery tomorrow!

Knee Arthroscopy

I’ll be having an arthroscopy at the King Edward VII – Sister Agnes hospital in Central London. An arthroscopy is a fairly non-invasive, keyhole procedure where two incisions are made in the knee, one for a tiny camera, and the other for the instruments required to carry out repairs. In my case, these repairs will likely be the removal of any damaged cartilage and smoothing of the surface underneath my knee cap in order to restore the smooth tracking of the knee. It’ll be performed under general anaesthetic (I’ll be asleep) and if al goes to plan I’ll be in and out on the same day.

arthroscopy, knee injury

Pros: There’s an 80% chance that this procedure will alleviate the pain in my knee completely and I’ll be back up and running in 6-8 weeks. It’s a minimal procedure with small scarring and I should be able to weight bear very soon after the operation.

Cons / Risks: With any knee surgery where cartilage is removed, the risk of developing arthritis increases, and I am already at high risk due to my bone demineralisation. I talked through this with my consultant and the potential development of arthritis would be after 10-15 years…which I’m not worried about.

Post surgery I’ll need to rest completely for 7-10 days, and then start gentle rehabilitation and exercise. In terms of teaching, apart from the occasional PT client, I’ll be out until the end of September…! But it’ll all be worth it to be pain free and able to train again!!

Has anyone undergone similar? When I speak to people, I’m surprised at the amount of people who’ve had something similar or knows someone who has.

Injury Chronicles #2

So last week I updated you with my knee injury and the potential treatment I’d need. After a little more assessment and a closer look at my scans, my course of treatment has been decided!

london orthopaedic clinic, knee injury

Just a reminder of the injury in a little more detail, I’ve got two things going on. The first is chrondal patella damage (cartilage damage behind the knee) and the other is fairly significant fat pad impingement. It’s been decided that while physiotherapy will help, I’ve actually got good alignment and it’s only a problem if I’m not concentrating during movement, so I’m doing physio exercises with my eyes shut to help this…! The next step is steroid injections in the knee, which I started today.

Steroid Injections

Using cortisone, a highly powerful anti-inflammatory treatment for soft tissue injuries, injections offer fast-acting pain relief that comes from a reduction in internal swelling in joints, tendons and bursa. I’ve had them before in a hip injury and found them to be pretty successful.

The advantages of steroid injections include a faster reaction time and minimal discomfort associated with the treatment. Also, the side-effects that occur when taking a steroid orally are significantly reduced. Although if the injections are continued for the long-term, similar side-effects of weight gain, excessive bruising or acne can be reported, but this is rare. The steroids take up to 48 hours to take effect, so initially, after the anaesthetic wears off, the pain be the same, or even worse for a couple of days.

cortisone_injection_knee_joints

Do the injections hurt? Well in my experience, the local anaesthetic injection will always be the worst part! Years ago when I had injections in my hip, the anaesthetic hadn’t quite taken effect (a result of my hypermobility apparently) so that was far more painful!! My injection today was a combination of both the steroid and the anaesthetic. This meant that the area wasn’t so numb (bad), but there was only one injection to deal with (good). Having my knee cap pushed over and fluid injected underneath is wasn’t exactly comfortable, and walking around with a numb knee is really odd, but it’s done now.

london orthopaedic clinic

I’ve got to rest for the remainder of today, take it easy a couple of days, then I can get back to physio and hope the pain eases, or goes altogether! I’ll keep you posted with the progress!