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March 17, 2015

Surviving a Sport Injury: A Guide for Healing.

Photo credit: Anna Shienman - ABASIN 2014

My husband bought me my first private ski lesson for my 31st birthday.

It was love at first slide.

I grew to anticipate and appreciate the winter season. Winter meant snow and snow, in its soft magnificence, meant skiing. When I wasn’t skiing, I craved the sweet solitude of the chairlift. I longed to reach both literal and figurative new heights.

But East Coast mountains were too small for my aspirations. And East Coast ski seasons were way too short: I dreamed of the deep snow and nearly endless winters of the West.

Colorado Bound

Two years ago, my husband and I decided to make our dreams come true. We moved to Colorado. Now, we have easy access to some of the best ski resorts in the world! I love living in this winter mountain wonderland. I love going to the slopes, and practicing the yogic skiing experience. My breath coordinates with my movements. I inhale as I extend my legs, and exhale as I bend and retract. Meanwhile, my mind keeps pace with the meditative rhythm of skiing. The views are spectacular, the sun is out and the air is fresh, what more could you ask for?

Improving My Skills

I very was serious about my skiing, and my desire to improve.

  • I took lots of lessons  with the most qualified instructors at the resort.
  • I incorporated ski-specific strength and dynamic flexibility exercises into my off-slope routine.
  • I practiced new skills until I mastered them.
  • When the mountain splattered me down her trails, I got up and kept skiing.

Wednesday Feb 2, 2015 10:00 AM.

I woke up to a sunny, powdery and brisk Wednesday morning. The new snow put a big smile on my face. So I did what any true Coloradan would do: I took  half a day from work and headed down the slopes. After a few runs, it was getting a bit cold. “Oh just one more run,” I said to myself. “Then I can take a coffee break.” I made a turn and hopped back on the lift. During the ascent, my mind drifted toward some irrelevant nonsense. I caught myself, then refocused my mind on the upcoming trail.

Wednesday Feb 2, 2015 12:00 PM.

Yay Me! I skied the most challenging “scoop” on the trail. Although maybe I was going too quickly.

Crash! 

I’m yelling, cursing, crying and I’m. Upside-down. My left ski is still attached. Where the hell is my right ski? Voices around me: “What’s your name? Can you breathe?” Nathan from the ski patrol arrives. I’m placed on the sled and brought to the clinic. I am cold, pain is unbearable, but look on the bright side, I’m still breathing.

Wednesday Feb 2, 2015 1:30 PM.

“I am not my body, pain is in my mind”…Fuck it hurts…no Advil. Calling my husband—honey we got snowed in, I need to shovel. Pam picked me up, driving to the hospital.

No fracture, need MRI lost consciousness…

Wednesday Feb 2, 2015, 5:00 PM.

I am home on crutches. Everything hurts. In response to the pain, my body shakes like an autumn leaf everything hurts. What have I done?

Crying, angry, frustrated.

Can’t manage the crutches.

Friday Feb 6, 2015, 10:00 AM.

I saw my first doctor and got MRI on Friday. ACL is completely torn. My calf muscle hurts more than my knee—the doc said that it is probably a bruise. The doc #1 told me to go home and start PT.

Tuesday Feb 10, 2015, 10:00 AM.

Saw the doc #2, was closed to cancelling an appointment for the second opinion, but something pushed me to go through with it. The doc #2 sent me for an emergency ultrasound. F*ck, yes things can get worst…I have a blood clot in my calf.

I could’ve died…more anger and despair and crying. It was pretty bad, but it could’ve been so much worst. I could’ve skied into a tree. Death would’ve been my friend, but living paralyzed is quite not something I want to do.

And I know that life force in me would’ve not let me kill myself—so here is my worst case scenario. I couldn’t believe the doc#1 totally ignored a life-threating issue with my clot.

Here’s some important advice: If you injure your knee on the slopes, remove your ski boot as soon as possible. Pump your ankle to prevent blood clots. Take baby aspirin, and ice your knee for 20 minutes every two hours. You will also need to elevate your injured leg, but don’t make this common mistake. The pillow or cushion goes under your foot, not under your knee! Placing it under your knee keeps your knee in a flexed position. This will make it harder to regain full extension during physical therapy. Please talk to your doctor or other health care provider before making a health care decision. 
 

Saturday Feb 28, 2015 9:00 AM.

Photo Credit: Anna Sheinman

It’s been over nearly three weeks since my ski accident. In a matter of a few  hours, my life had turned upside down.

That said, I am beginning to feel so much better mentally and physically.

Here’s the harsh reality: Even with the best physical and mental preparation, injuries will happen. They are an inherent risk in any adventurous sport. However, it’s your reaction to the injury that affects your ability to heal. And the sooner you heal, the sooner you can return to your sport. You can choose to suffer, but you can also choose to heal.

The following steps will help you move on and start the healing process. Start by asking your doctor about safe activities and helpful nutrition. In the meantime, do your own research. Keep in mind, this is not a linear process.

Prepare for emotional setbacks. You’ve got this.

 

1) Deal With Despair and Anger

I’ve never been so angry in my life. Why me? This is a real, but useless stage of healing. I tinkered with the “what if scenario” thought experiment.

What if I found a way to time travel? Instead of going to the slopes, I decided to stay home. Maybe I would have gotten into a car crash after driving back from the grocery store. Or maybe, while walking  Rocky (the four-legged love of my life) he would run away or get hit by a car.

The truth is we don’t really know how the universe works. You can be angry at yourself for making the wrong decision, but in order to heal, you need to forgive yourself.

2) Allow Yourself to be Sad

Do you suppress your emotions? I do. Crying embarrasses me. I hate expressing sadness.

Allow yourself to mourn and feel whatever loss you are experiencing. Being “macho,” “strong” or “brave” by burying or hiding your feelings in this situation is not only a waste of energy, but will interfere with your ability to cope and recover.

Feeling sad is very similar to feeling angry. Allow yourself to be sad and move on.

3) Educate Yourself About Your Injury

Just google it! You don’t need to be a doctor to understand your injury. Learn as much as possible about the anatomy of your injury, ask questions, and understand your condition. I am still not certain if I will have the surgery or not, but at this point I will be able to make an intelligent decision when time comes. Ask for doctor’s recommendations, check on-line and go with your gut. See at least three doctors before making a decision about surgery.

Make a list of questions prior to seeing a doctor. Request for your medical information (MRI, X-RAY, reports, etc.). I signed up for the on-line fax and received my MRI on the day when it was taken. Create a folder for your injury. Here is a sample questions you should ask:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • How long will recovery take?
  • When can I start physical therapy?
  • What should I expect during rehab?
  • What alternative workouts can I safely do?
  • What are the warning signs that I am getting worse?
  • Do I need a surgery (Yes / No—consequences)?
  • How can I ensure that I don’t have a blood clot?

 4) Cultivate a Positive Attitude

This is one of the key phases of healing. Instead of freaking out about the blood clot, I refocused my energy on how lucky am I that the good doc caught it. I am very young and super healthy so the recovery process will be relatively quick. I have my wonderful husband and a very small, but amazing group of friends, including my pup, my family in NY and my dream life in Colorado. I will come out stronger and more knowledgeable.

I can use this time to write and help others, to learn about injuries.

To heal quickly, we need to monitor what we are thinking and saying to ourselves regarding the injury and the rehab process. Count your blessings and remain focused on what you need to do. Start your day by writing down what you are grateful for. Remember this is not an intellectual exercise, close your eyes and feel what you are grateful for.

5) Be your own doctor

Growing research shows that it may be possible to speed up the healing process by using specific mental skills and techniques such as imagery and self-hypnosis. Imagery techniques use all of the senses to create mental images, feelings and sensations related to a desired outcome as though it is happening now or has already happened. In other words, the body is a perfect computer with an ability to heal. Your nervous system has two operating systems—the “fight-or-flight” stress response dominated by the sympathetic nervous system and the relaxation response run by the parasympathetic nervous system.

Only when your nervous system is in a relaxation response do your body’s self-repair mechanisms function.

  • Find some time during the day for the following practice
  • Sit in a comfortable place and positing where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Take about 12 breath through your nose inhaling on the count on four and exhaling on the count on four
  • Rub your palms and place them gently on the injured part
  • Imagine healing light energy warming up and healing the injury

I like to imagine the army of “good” solders cleaning the mess after the earthquake – whatever works!

6) Improve Your Nutrition

Your body needs calories to heal. Your activity level will be reduced and calorie intake will remain the same or higher. You will probably gain some extra weight, but instead of worrying about it, focus on eating super-duper healthy food and watch your portions. To minimize weight gain and speed up your recovery, remove foods that increase inflammation. These include saturated and trans fats, as well as  the added sugars found in cookies, cakes, pies, and other pastries, cereal bars, pasta sauces.

Based on my research, the following is the list of the most anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Ginger is a root to mix it up with a little bit on honey and chop finely to eat raw with fruits and veggies. Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including direct anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Turmeric: is a culinary spice with growing evidence is accumulating that this brightly colored relative of ginger is a promising disease-preventive agent as well, due largely to its anti-inflammatory action.
  • Pineapple a natural anti-inflammatory agent that is quite helpful in reducing swelling, bruising and pain in musculoskeletal injuries, as well as arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis. In fact, one study showed that in otherwise healthy adults with mild knee pain, bromelain can reduce knee pain, thereby improving well-being. Also rich in vitamin C.
  • Cherries preferably, tart or Montmorency Cherries, as these have been shown to have significant pain-reduction, recovery-boosting and anti-inflammatory effects. The benefits are believed to come from the anthocyanin content in the cherries.
  • Dubbed by Christopher Columbus as the “fruit of the angels,” Papaya is rich in many vitamins and minerals, but its main pain-reducing ingredient is the proteolytic enzyme.
  • Flaxseeds and walnuts (rich in omega-3s) are star players, along with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, carrots, and spinach. Phytochemicals are a natural chemicals found in the plant foods suggested on the diets are also believed to help reduce inflammation.

 7) Experiment With Essential Oils

If there was one good thing to come out of this injury, it’s the discovery of the healing powers of essential oils. I was not able to get up and start working my leg until I applied the following mixture of anti-inflammatory: chamomile, frankincense, lavender and sweet marjoram (also helps circulation).

This magical mixture, along with the anti-inflammatory diet and icing procedures, dramatically reduced my inflammation over the oils course of the two weeks. Do your research—there are quite a few brands available.

8) Find an Exercise Routine That Won’t Cause Pain

I’ve been practicing yoga and Pilates for over 15 years, gone through numerous injuries and taught folks with all kinds of injures. I was able to adjust my daily practice right away. An appropriate practice of yoga can be a great aid to healing. My post-injury practice included breathing and raising arms or circling the head for a few days. Followed by standing and breathing, basic arm movement coordinated with breath followed by meditation. I started doing some basic and Pilate exercises after the swelling reduced around the second week.

Depending upon the type of injury you have, you may be able to modify your training or add alternate forms of training to maintain cardiovascular conditioning or strength. Work with your trainer, therapist or physician to establish a good alternative workout program.

Work on relaxation training and flexibility. Create a modified strength training program, do a limited amount of exercise to maintain cardiovascular fitness or focus on better nutritional health.

With the right knowledge, support and patience you can overcome your injury without turning your whole world upside down. By taking things slowly, setting realistic goals and maintaining a positive, focused approach, most of us can overcome minor injuries quickly, and major injuries in time. Make sure you see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for any injury.

9) Redirect Your Physical Energy

“My whole life is about movement.  From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I am used to doing yoga and Pilates, walking my dog and skiing. All of it is gone. I can’t do any of it.”

This type of attitude will send you straight back to anger and sadness. Instead of thinking what we can’t do, think of what we can do is a key. I finally got some time to write, read and spend some time at home. I can reconnect with old friends and enjoy watching some shows on tele.

10) Seek Counseling

Getting the help from a professional is a sign of strength, not weakness, so if you are feeling very miserable and depressed for a period of time, don’t be afraid to seek out the help of a therapist. Talking to someone who can understand is always helpful and can get you back on your feet again.

11) Be patient and take one day at a time

Healing is an exercise in patience.

Make sure you give your body enough time to heal properly.  Do not jump right back into it the day you start to feel a little bit better; this will only slow down your healing process. Each day, do a little more, and gradually you’ll start to build the confidence to get back out there.

Sometimes, even though you’re improving, it’s hard to see those gains because you’re so focused on performing at your pre-injury levels. I kept a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track the activities I did and my mood levels each day. If you keep track of your recovery you can see that perhaps you could only walk up half the stairs last week, but this week you did all the stairs!

 

Author’s note: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Anna Sheinman. They are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, and they are not intended as medical advice. They are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from my own research and experience. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

 

Relephant: 

 

Injury as Opportunity: How Yoga Can Heal Your Body, Mind & Spirit.

Yoga for Skiers.

 

Author: Anna Sheinman

Editor: Renée Picard 

Images: via the author

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