Tuesday 1 May 2018

Do Active Individuals Normalize Pain?

I've discussed, before, the barrier of individuals who identify with their pain to the point where they struggle to find the motivation to attempt recovery. Usually, however, we think about this occurrence when it comes to people who have been suffering from a specific affliction for such a long period of time that they simply come to terms with it.

What we don't talk about, though, is the rate that many other individuals seem to accept new pain as a fact of life, causing them to disregard the steps they need to take to completely heal.

We've all seen it before in athletes, gym-goers, and labourers, for instance. Highly physical people who intentionally place large demands on their bodies experience episodes of pain and injury, but for one reason or another, tend to disregard their bodies' alarm bells and simply carry on through it.

Nah, my ankle is supposed to dangle like that.

On the surface, it seems like an easy explanation. Active individuals, especially those who are mid-competition or are relying on remaining active for a paycheque, keep themselves going despite the pain as a necessity. While they may have fairly typical pain thresholds for the average population, they certainly develop higher pain tolerance. But why does this prevent these same people to continue to neglect their health once they're off of the clock or out of the arena?

I'm good, boss. Just a bruise.

Recent research on the topic was hard for me to come by, with the most current studies coming from the 90s. These studies, however, speak on the psychological effects of injury on athletes regarding depression and affected self-worth, factors that can certainly affect the perception of the injury. In fact, to cope with these effects, the acceptance of injury follows the same stages of grieving, and it stands to reason that many active individuals get easily stonewalled at the denial stage.

On the surface, this "work through the pain" attitude seems to work just fine and allows these people to finish the job and been none the worse for it. After all, ignoring your body's alarm bells can't end badly, can it...?

Juuuuuuust dropped a nickel.

Should athletes be more willing to stop in the middle of a crucial game? Should construction workers miss a day of work at the first signs of an ache? Of course not. That's not the world that we live in. What needs to happen, however, is more education from practitioners on how to guide these individuals through those stages of grief and working their recovery around the necessities of their lives. It IS possible to take care of yourself without interfering with your work and activities, and you can do it WITHOUT letting that injury define you.


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