The Nano second after the pop
It felt like someone squished their thumbs into an orange. A feeling inside my right calf, my leg.
It was in the warm up for a tennis lesson. I’d been sitting all day, dancing the previous evening. It was a cold night, I had quickly gone home, got changed and gone straight out for my lesson.
At the Nano second I felt the weird feeling of tissue tearing, I felt pain. It was sharp pain, deep, shearing pain. Like the worst cramp magnified 100 times. My whole being stopped, all weight on the other leg, while my tennis partner shouted “Are you OK?”. I was not OK, but I am not one to say anything is a problem.
Standing on one leg in a cold October night, in the dark, on a floodlit tennis court with a very painful leg is not OK. I suddenly felt very cold, angry and somehow unable to get anyone to take my predicament seriously. A chair was brought, an icepack offered a health & safety form completed.
Problem was, I had to get home and I had driven there alone, no one to help. So, with help, I hopped to my car, fortunately an automatic and drove it back to my house. Not stopping there and ever practical, I called my Mother. She collected me, took me to my clinic and I hopped from the car 50 feet into my practice, gathered strapping, diary and anything else I could in a bag, hopped 50 feet back to her car & she dropped me home.
The tears erupted as soon as she left, but I kept myself calm and strapped my leg up. Another injury.
Sometimes when people present in clinic with damaged tissue it can be a challenge to remember that this might be the first time they had an injury. It’s equally difficult to remember that they are going to be devastated & scared.
When I hurt myself, and I do I’m normal, it’s just another event. I have a long history of sport injury and experince rehabilitating & getting better. I know that muscle & bone mends, it’s happened to me before and it’s my job.
But for a person who has never ever had an injury there is absolutely nothing for them to use as a reference mark. On a day like the day when I injured my calf muscle, when I was asking for a chair, turning down a hospital trip, asking for a strong shoulder to lean on so I could hop to my car. Another person, with no medical knowledge would have been taken to hospital by a paramedic. Theit first response would, most likely, have been fear, pain. Shock would have hit like a knife and most certainly they would have kept their leg still and not stood or hopped.
They would have been sitting in the cold, or lifted into a room in the sports centre, then off in an ambulance for checking. By the time I was home in tears, letting all my upset & anger out with a box of tissues, they would probably only just have arrived at hospital to wait to be seen. A whole major trauma experience, checked by doctors, worry, possibly a piece of tub grip, taping and home non-weight bearing on a pair of, awkward to use, elbow crutches. Most likely with a hospital appointment booked for a scan in hospital clinic 4 or 5 days later. Their arrival back at home almost certain to be 4 or 5 hours later than my own.
I’m self-employed, so with my calf strapped I worked from day 1. My clinic is full of helpful kit, so treatment started rapidly. I was fully aware the muscle had partially ruptured mid bulk, I could feel the squishy soft gel feeling, knew it needed to run its course to mend.
By contrast it’s probable someone unknowing would have been signed off work, struggled to get about on crutches and waited to be seen in clinic for a diagnosis. How do I know? Because this is what people tell me when they arrive in clinic. It’s almost certain their fear and lack of knowledge would have meant they felt frightened to move their foot, worried they might feel another ping & sharp pain. By the time they had been seen in clinic for review, they would already have begun to lose brain limb happiness, not known how to help themself to heal. Potentially causing all manner of unecessary problem and delays in healing.
So, what are the best tips to manage your acute pain soon after an injury?
- Remember that the body is amazing at healing, we all get injuries now and again
- Stay calm, breathe, especially an out breath, consciously relax.
- Reassure yourself, say “I’m going to be fine, I’ll just take a few moments, keep calm”
- Reassure others, take charge, ask them to do helpful practical things “go get me a chair”, “call my partner”, “keep me warm”.
- Avoid over analyses, what you might have done, catastrophising, accept “I’m injured, bu**er, rats, pooh”.
- Already mentally plan, avoid worrying, be practical, keep engaged.
- Be brave and try a little wriggle of fingers and toes, or a shrug of a shoulder, tighten of a muscle. If you hurt your lower limb move your upper limb and vice versa, if you have acute back pain even try face movements. Keep connecetd to your body.
- Remember again how gr8 the body is at healing & put trust in your system
Jill Wigmore-Welsh GDPhysMCSP MSc