No pain no pain…
One principle I apply when working with people is to move without creating or increasing pain. The ‘no pain, no pain’ principle. During my 5th week (post cast removal) of recovery from a scaphoid fracture it is interesting to examine this personally. While my recovery was steep week 1 to 4 suddenly I have hit a ceiling and things started feeling really tight and achy. My wrist seems to be slightly swollen all the time.
I wonder: if I work to move in my pain-free range of motion or not to increase existing pain, then what’s going on?
I started to explore the idea of pain. I can feel sharp pain. It is easy to stay on the ease-filled side of sharp pain. It’s the sneaky pain at release or the day after that has me confused.
Why am I swollen and achy? Why am I in pain?
When connective tissues and muscles are not used for a while they can become stiff, start to loose mass and strength. When I start to use them again the process of rebuilding and lengthening the tissue has some effects that result in discomfort (yes pain). This seems so simple. It makes sense. If you start working out at the gym you’re muscles are going to ache. As they grow accustomed to that level of activity they stop aching. The tendons too, will complain…and my forearm tendons really complained. I have been so careful moving efficiently in the shoulder, elbow and wrist that I was surprised by how tense I was getting through the hand, wrist and forearms. I was so tense in fact I started to experience “Tennis elbow” symptoms – sharp aching pain in the elbow and a very achy wrist.
Where is the line between the pain of an injury and the pain of healing?
While I am not moving into pain I am definitely experiencing pain. I carefully watch for signs of fatigue – like the little hint of pain on release of a movement or not being able to continue to move purely. Fatigue means it’s time to rest or move onto another area. Swelling a good indication that some hydrotherapy is a good idea. And that tight, achy feeling are a signal for some self-massage or a trip to the massage therapist.
As I continue to listen to the clues my body is giving me I will keep you posted on how pure movement, relaxation and rest shifts and diminishes the pain / discomfort of the healing process. In the meantime, I am going to get a cold wrap and take a breather.
My gratitude to Allison Condrun, PT, Susi Hately, BSc. Kin, Yoga Therapist, and Hazel Soares, RMT for their thoughtful observations and wise advice.