Dealing with Physical Trauma: My Personal Experience

This week we have a guest post from Vancouver RMT Jennifer Keene. The post was written during the early stages of her recovery process and is a perfect example of why it is important to step back and be respectful of the recovering body. It is easy to let the challenge become overwhelming, but at the same time so gratifying to regain what once was.

We are happy to announce that Jennifer championed through the rehabilitation process and is now back to work three days a week!!

When recovering from an injury it is important to monitor the gains.

The first week of having the cast off is horrific.  Even after one week of post-surgical casting, I couldn’t move my fingers or hand.

My hand felt foreign and incapable.  It was scary to have a part of my body incapacitated and injured, but after the first week I began to see a significant increase in hand dexterity and pain-free activities.  It is important to monitor the daily activities you CAN do versus those that you can’t. Tonight is the first time my right hand has been involved in typing, still minimal but assisting with 1 or 2 fingers is a big improvement.  Today I also managed to eat with my right hand for the first time since the break, when only a few days ago I was barely able to move my fingers and hand due to stiffness.Set new goals: I want to make a gun shape with my fingers (I can’t now due to palm and tendon stiffness.)
** DO NOT set timelines!  That is always up to your body to figure out!

Be aware that tremendous shock may occur anywhere along the healing process and do not discount the psychological effects of damaging your body

“Richmond believes it is essential for care-givers to acknowledge that emotional trauma is inherent in almost every injury.  In a National Institutes of Health-funded study she did, Richmond found that even among patients who had relatively minor injuries, a substantial amount had depression and post-traumatic stress a year or more after the injury.”

Penn Nursing Science, The psychological effects of injury

Jen's post-surgical x-ray
Jen’s post-surgical x-ray

There are now limitations in life that you weren’t expecting. It packs an emotional punch when you have to limit your existence, it makes sense.  I cried this morning trying to open a new glass jar of almond butter.  I managed to pry it open after several attempts with the glass between my thighs and my lefty.  I was already riding an emotional wave when the almond butter tears hit but don’t be shocked if similar frustrations hit you.

In a surgical repair you are encouraged to move as much as possible, within pain-free range of motion.  I found that scary and felt resistant to the concept of using my hand and my arm. The urge to protect was so strong that had I not known from my own schooling how important it is to have tissue in motion, I likely would avoid rehabbing it due to discomfort.  Most people I’ve talked to with breaks admit that they have continuing, chronic problems due to lack of rehab. This too is often what is reported in RMT (registered massage therapy) clinics when pain present in an area of previous injury.  Move in all ranges as much as you can without pain.  The doctor said “if it’s sore the next day it’s too much” and  I wouldn’t recommend anything that leads to lingering pain.

Jennifer Keene
Registered Massage Therapist

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