Thursday, 18 April 2013

Dealing with Pain and Injuries

Pain is something that too many of us live with on a daily basis.  We often don't understand it, it's simply "there".   We get frustrated when we injure ourselves and when we recover all too often something else goes wrong and we ask ourselves "why?".  Most of us have all had our fair share of injuries throughout our lives and I think it's probably a rare occurrence for any athletic person to not have any lingering effects from at least one injury that they have sustained.  Point being... you can probably relate to this.

Personal History with Pain

Ok... some of the pain is self inflicted. ;)
I've been living with chronic lower back and hip pain for over 15 years.  It got so bad at one point in my mid twenties that I could hardly stay on my feet some days. I actually had to go on disability leave from work for a few months. In particular, I have lots of pain down my right side including my hip, glutes, knee, calf, achilles and foot.  That's where most of it comes from although I have imbalances on both sides of my body.  I've also got an issue in the mid/left side of my back that I'm working on as well as some shoulder issues.  I've had X-Rays, CT Scans, MRI and visited numerous doctors in an attempt to understand what my problem was.  It stretched out over a couple of years with no real answers and eventually I became fed up with the medical system and decided that I would have to find another way.

I decided that the only way that I could fix my body was to make it stronger and improve my fitness.  It was a slow process at first since I hardly ever did any exercise at all until I moved to Vancouver.  If you're interested in knowing more about how I initially got into triathlon and what my lifestyle was before moving here then you should read my first blog post entitled "In the Beginning".

painPRO Therapeutics
One of the major reasons why I started leading an active lifestyle and ultimately got into triathlon was to make my body stronger and reduce the amount of pain I live with every day.  Although it definitely helped, I was never able to get rid of it.  As I mentioned in my previous blob post "Back on Track" I have some imbalances in my body.  When I've been injured in the past my body has compensated in order to continue functioning by utilizing other muscles to do the work of the injured muscles, ligaments or tendons.  The problem with that, as I've learned first hand, is that once your injury has healed your body continues to compensate because the injured muscles are now weak due to the lack of use.  That's why it's important to see a physio therapist ASAP during your recovery, to make sure that you rehabilitate your muscles properly.  When I was younger, visiting a physio therapist was something that I never used to do after being injured (I had my fair share of injuries as a teenager ripping around on my skateboard and snowboard).  I figured that my body would just heal and get back to normal.  It was never properly explained to me and I never put too much thought into it.

Invest in your Body

Over the last few months I've experienced great relief from regular massage therapy sessions.  My muscles are very stiff and it helps me to stay relaxed and loose.  In order for your muscles to function properly it's important to take care of them.  I've been going to painPRO Therapeutics in Vancouver on a regular basis.

One of the really great things about painPRO is the ease of making appointments. If something happens mid week, I can schedule an appointment right away (up to 15 minutes before the actual appointment time!). Talk about great service.  All of the therapists there are amazing and highly skilled so it doesn't matter who I go see, the result is always great. With a name like painPRO you can't go wrong! :)

My favorite! Renegade Rows with Sean Del Ben.
Since November 2012, I've also been working with Strength and Conditioning Specialist Sean Del Ben on a weekly basis to fix the imbalances in my body.  The first thing that Sean did was put me through a functional movement screening test to determine where my weaknesses were.  By pin pointing my individual weaknesses Sean was able to give me specific exercise to isolate the appropriate muscles.  The exercises that we do are specifically focused on improving stability, functional movement and range of motion.

One of the most important things to remember when doing strength work is form.  It's crucial to make sure that you are executing the exercise properly otherwise you could be doing more damage instead of fixing your issues.  That's why it's so great to work with a personal trainer.  Sean always makes sure that I'm doing everything properly each week.  When I do the exercises at home I concentrate on everything that he has taught me and try to imagine him there making sure that I keep my form together.

He's also incorporated specific stretches to help with my flexibility which has been a tremendous help.  When I'm out on the TT bike I need to be flexible to get into the ideal aero position. My hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and quads are more flexible than ever lately.  For the last three years I was unable to straighten my right leg and flex my muscles at the same time.  I did it a couple of times while stretching in bed as I woke up half asleep and it took a few weeks each time to fully recover from the subsequent injury.  This also has a lot to do with the regular massage therapy.  With each visit to painPRO over the last few months my quads have become less tense and easier to manipulate.  They are looser than they've been since I started all the training a few years ago. This week I was actually able to straighten my leg completely and flex as hard as I could without any issue at all!  For the last couple of years I'd been thinking that I would never be able to do that again.  I honestly had doubts when Sean told me that he was going to help me get rid of these issues when he first started working with me.

Kettlebell Swings.
Although I'm still not 100%... I've been feeling less pain now than I've felt for over 12 years which is incredible!  After years of suffering, only a few months of regular massage therapy at painPRO and regular sessions with Sean Del Ben has given me better results than years of visiting doctors and looking for a diagnosis and proper treatment.  Investing in my body has been worth it beyond any doubt.  If you're having similar problems I strongly recommend giving these two methods a try.  Living with pain and constant injuries is no way to live. Break free from pain, feel good and get the most out of your body.

I hope that through sharing my personal experience I can help others resolve their issues faster than I resolved mine.  It's kinda crazy that it took me so long to finally get some results.  If you have any questions about any of this or if you'd like to share your own experience please leave your comments below and I'll make sure to get back to you ASAP.  If you're interested in following my progress you can also follow me on Facebook by clicking HERE and on Twitter by clicking HERE. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. :)


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