You may know that the common medical advice for treating soft tissue injury is the R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Your inner child however, prefers Reinjure, Ignore, Curse, Exhort (or entreat).
Sitting here in week 4 of hamstring tendonitis, I’ve come to realize, from 9 years anecdotal, strictly non scientific, non statically valid samples, that there may be others, like me, who prefer to address their injuries from a strictly emotional, inner child point for view. (This also has applications for why people,especially men, avoid regular medical checkups or any of the assorted medical screenings which catch cancer earlier and reduce mortality). I know many of you who know what you’re talking about by virtue of training or expertise in medicine, physical therapy, exercise physiology , etc., are all be shaking your heads right now, but there are completely valid logical reasons for this irrational emotional response.
There will be times during your life when you feel completely fine (for which you should express constant gratitude to your God, source, science or your lucky draw of probability) but these periods decline exponentially as one ages. Therefore, at any given time, something in your body is going to hurt. There are two causes for these injuries. Doing nothing or doing something. Those who exercise have formed a firm belief the pains from doing something are better (less debilitating) than those from doing nothing. That’s because 99% of us, (excepting Olympic and professional athletes) have gone though long periods of time of doing nothing. What is more painful or humiliating then throwing out your back reaching across the Baskin Robbins counter for your ice cream cone. Who hasn’t heard some one say, “Really, I wasn’t doing anything, I just reached over to load the dishwasher and a disc in my spine exploded like a firecracker in an empty soda bottle!”
When you begin an exercise program everything hurts. All the time. The first workout, walk, run, yoga class, weight training session leaves you so sore, getting to the bathroom seems like a lottery win. You wonder if this is what death feels like. Your ego suggests that maybe, avoiding exercise will avoid this pain. You may even be sore for days. But your body tricks you. Quickly you’re not sore again so you work out again. More pain. Quicker recovery. Somehow, your rational brain over rides this self-preservation instinct and you establish some kind of routine. Soon however, the exercise starts causing the same rush of endorphins that you were previously happy to get from smoking, drug use, gambling, shoe shopping, sex, or soduku. You notice you actually feel better!!! Here’s where the body gets really sneaky. Soon you notice you don’t get sore the next day, maybe just later that day. Then that gets better. Your recovery time decreases. You’re lulled into a sense of perpetual physical self-improvement. But the body is not finished setting this devilish trap for you.
Inevitably however you reach that time when work, vacation, family obligations or something else silly causes you to mix one or more of your exercise sessions. You go back only to realize that even though you only missed three days, it’s like starting the program over from scratch. You re visibly pissed only to be calmed down by the short period it takes to get back to where you were.
One day you work out as normal and something doesn’t feel quite right. Later your arm, leg, lower upper back, knew, ankle, foot, neck hurts. You immediately pay attention. Maybe you do something rational like rest it, baby it, take an anti inflammatory. The pain is gone the next day. You feel like a cubicle worker who just found out the office is closed tomorrow for a snow day. You got outta prison early. Unlike the cubicle worker however, as you increase your exercise addiction to a 7 day a week thing, these pain days are more frequent. And, like Pavlov’s dog, you learn to ignore these little aches and pains because they will all be gone in a day or two. Until one isn’t. And, you don’t want to take time off and go backwards. The loss of benefit from exercise starts as soon as the workout is over. .Hence, step one- Reinjure. Why rest when you know this pain is only temporary. You can’t be a wuss or and skip every exercise session cause one body part is being pissy. So you go back out. And reinjure it again. And again.
This bring em to the second step- ignore the pain injury. I finally worked my way up to a “no exercise if limping rule”. (Or a fever above 102). (Or severe gastrointestinal illness because well, who,didn’t have that happen to them in elementary school?). From anecdotal evidence, most folk’s inner child developed different time periods for the ignore time period, for me currently it’s 2 weeks. I’m hoping to build up to a month soon. Anyway, you know realize you have… what’s the medical term, oh, right “f#%^ed yo shit UP”. Now, you know, from past experience that if you go to the doctor with a “soft tissue” injury (soft tissue is anything that is not a bone sticking out of your bleeding “soft tissue”, they are going to palpitate, massage, poke, prod and otherwise feel around your injured soft tissue, look at you very compassionately and say “you have f#^*ed yo shit UP” and you should rest, ice the soft tissue (or heat- “ice or heat” is apparently a bigger mystery than what caused the Big Bang), buy a girdle appliance for your afflicted part, and elevate it. So, at this point you skip the doctor and curse. Here’s a big tip- just curse in general, like a venting do not curse AT the soft tissue. Some people prefer a cursing which completely runs through every profanity they know- I prefer picking one and repeating it quickly, like combination of a tongue twister and mantra. Try it, pick your favorite curse word and repeat it as quickly as possible in your own mind silently and see how much better you feel. If you curse AT the body part- well, Katie bar the door, because the mind-body connection is well documented scientifically and psychologically. This means, simply that if you cuss AT the body part, it is going to compound your injury. It will escalate. In other words, your knees say, “Yeah?!?!? Ok, then, I’m gonna f#%€ Yo shit up even worse!!”
And this bring us to the final step in our inner child acronym or “exhort”. Or “entreat”. I prefer the terms beg, plead and whine, but I needed an “e” word for the acronym and only those pedantic e words were an option. Anyone who’s ever experienced a difficult relationship with a significant other, parent or child understands the exhort, entreat, beg, plead or whine stage. So you also know how well that works.
So, there you go, the R.I.C.E method, re injure, ignore, curse and exhort. I’ve been doing that for the last week after my massage therapist, chiropractor and yoga instructor all suggested I not exercise for a bit and let this tendon heal. The yoga instructor even suggested a take 10 (TEN days off). (Pfffft- what does that PhD, 500 hr yoga certified, anatomy expert, 20 years fitness experienced guru know?!)
I guess if all else fails, I’ll tell my inner child what I tell it anytime when adulting is required. I won’t be happy about it, though. And, It’s gonna require Ben and Jerry’s.