We Are Only Human After All

Categories: Blog, injury, physical therapy, back pain, certification Aug 25, 2019

And now, a guest article by Dr. Kurt S. Brooks, OS Certified Clinician:

We all get hurt. 

Injuries happen.  We twist an ankle, bite a lip, hurt our backs and tear rotator cuffs.  It’s part of life and part of living. The interesting thing though, is how we respond to some of these mishaps of living. 

If we bite a lip, we don’t say, “I’m never going to chew food again.”  If we twist an ankle, we don’t decide to never walk again.  But when we hurt our backs (“blow a disc”, “pull a muscle”, “pinch a nerve”), we often hear people say that they can never lift anything heavy again.  Or we hear that someone had knee surgery, so they can never squat, or run, or climb stairs, or pick up their child again. 

People let the fear of pain, or their memory of pain, stop them from moving…and from living life to its fullest.

I was recently working out when I hurt my back.  It was a simple movement. I was just dropping to the floor on all fours to push a sled.  But something went horribly wrong. 

As I dropped onto my hands and knees, the pain in my back was instant, very localized, and breathtaking.  I had to stop and have my wife drive me home. 

After a short (hahaha!) stop at the urgent care for a shot of Toradol, a steroid pack, some hydrocodone, and muscle relaxants, I spent the next week at home.  I just couldn’t make it work.  The meds helped me sleep, but didn’t do much during the day when I had to sit, stand, walk, breathe or just move… Fortunately, I had some tricks in my bag to help me through the pain, the spasms and the frustration that comes when you just don’t have the time to be hurt.

For some background on me, I’m a 51-year-old father of two college-aged young adults.  I don’t quite have the D1 collegiate volleyball-player-body I once had, but I can still remember it. That and I still think I can do all the same things I could when I did have that body.  I am a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwan Do, a runner, and a Spartan!  I am also a Ph.D. - Physical Therapist with almost 30 years of sports medicine and orthopedic experience.  I’ve had my own injuries through the years, and I have had the privilege of helping many others through their injuries.

But every time I’ve had an injury in the past few decades, my patients ask, “Aren’t you a PT? Don’t you know better?”  My response has always been, “I do know better. I know better than to stop moving and to stop having fun and to stop being prepared for an injury!” 

And always when they ask me how I get better so fast (1 week with this injury, instead of the typical 8-12 weeks that I see in the clinic every day), I tell them that my body was prepared (aka in shape) when I got injured.  I also tell them that I kept moving after the injury and I didn’t let fear keep me from moving as the injury was healing.  So I get better and I got better… faster.

Now about that bag of tricks I used last month when just the thought of moving would send me into spasms… I used:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing:  Supine and loaded to engage my core and maintain a diaphragm-dominant respiratory pattern. I also used this to control the spasms and my pain levels. 

2. Head nods and rotations: Seated, Prone on elbows and on hands and knees to keep my vestibular system working and to keep my core working to protect my injured back. 

3. Windshield wipers, dead bugs and rocking on hands and knees.  Rocking progressed to speed skaters and bird dogs (when I could bear weight through the left leg without pain running to my toes). Then rocking push-ups! …Dani’s rocking push-up challenge was underway and I just couldn’t help myself!! 

Once I started the rocking push-up challenge, I was able to mow the lawn and return to work.  …And yes, I still had some pain and difficulty bending, but I was able to return to work, to play with my new puppy, and to start walking and going for short jogs. I was also able to go back to modified workouts.  

If you’ve been to a Pressing RESET Certification, this should sound familiar. Use your diaphragm to breathe. Engage the vestibular system. Tie the X together by engaging in the gait pattern and crossing midline. These principles are not only effective for healthy clients or patients but are also appropriate for use when an injury is present.

Yes, we still have to protect healing tissues, but tissues heal optimally when the appropriate forces are applied to them at the appropriate times. And if the healing tissue just needs rest or time before we start moving it again, we don’t have to let the rest of our body decline while we’re waiting for the tissue to heal.

We have progressions and regressions, lots of modifications, and a HUGE community of peers to ask for help or guidance if we need it!

Just remember: We’re only human after all!  We will all have some injuries, aches, and pains along the way – that’s just part of living!

Dr. Kurt S. Brooks, PT, DScPT, OCS- OS Certified Clinician

Comments (1)

  1. Kathleen Draego:
    Aug 26, 2019 at 11:09 PM

    Thank you Dr. Brooks, for helping people not follow their pain in the wrong direction, into fear and paralysis.
    I'm not a doctor, but was taught by a wonderful physical therapist to ask myself this question, upon feeling pain:
    Am I in danger?
    Often the answer to this question is "no", though the body certainly often reacts as if it is "yes". And IF the answer is "no", noting that we are NOT in danger keeps the sympathetic nervous system at bay, and gives the healing RESETS a chance to do their magic.


Add a Comment

Please login to comment.