Recognising “The Danger Zone”!

By Rachael Street & Carey Giddens

As Kiwi’s, our “she’ll be right” approach is legendary. Our No.8 wire ingenuity and our laid-back and friendly nature are what we hold high. As a very proud New Zealander I can honestly say that the best of us, can also sometimes be the worst of us.

Let me explain…

In general, we will go to see someone for treatment when we are in pain which makes complete sense of course.

We, generally, don’t think about or do anything proactive to prevent injury as we don’t always know what’s coming and what is needed to avoid injury, which again makes sense.

But, here’s where our laid-back “she’ll be right” approach gets us into trouble, as the vast majority (expected to be over 90%) of injuries happen from small insignificant events. An example of this can be found in ACC’s published statistics from 2016, which show that more people get injured per year from gardening than they do from Rugby!

“How can that be?” I hear you say.

These small insignificant events that cause us pain are often merely the straw that broke the camel’s back and not necessarily a large enough event to cause the pain as a one-off event. Now what we need to do is learn from this. We need to understand that there can be many things that lead up to your pain. We need to not only address the current pain but also learn to address those factors that led up to the pain. Make sense?

Pain is a great motivator so while the pain is there, motivation to get better is high. A clinician will work first on pain reduction before anything else normally. That’s their initial priority and I’m sure that’s your expectation of them. But, once the pain has gone, the motivation disappears to continue to see your treatment provider.

This is what we call… “The Danger Zone”

The Danger Zone is where the pain and resulting initial motivation is gone. Most people will stop attending treatment at this stage (remember the “she’ll be right” comment from above?) but, this is not the time to stop as the pre-injury conditions that lead to your pain have NOT been addressed yet. Your journey has only just begun.

For example, say you have been seeing a Physio for three weeks following a calf muscle tear and it is now feeling much better, basically pain free! You are able to do your daily activity without any issues and have tried a couple of light jogs without pain. Your follow-up appointment rolls around and you decide to cancel it and “see how it goes”. It’s feeling great, it must be resolved!

A common misconception, particularly after muscle tears, is that once the pain has gone the injury has healed.  This is not often the case and is a time where we see many clients re-injuring themselves.  The tissue is still repairing and your strength, flexibility and biomechanical imbalances need to be corrected in order to return to activity pain-free and without re-injury.

Often these imbalances and weakness have been long-standing and have possibly caused your injury in the first place. By correcting them, not only will you prevent re-injury but you may function better than ever before!

Changes take time to occur, so be patient and keep working at your exercises! Your Physio will guide you through this process until they are happy that your body is ready to return to your normal activities gradually.

So, make sure you come in for that follow-up appointment that you didn’t think you needed. Be smart and don’t fall into the “Danger Zone”.

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