Good athletes have an attuned knowledge of their body. They know their weaknesses, their imbalances, and their strengths. They’re fascinated with the mechanics of the body, methods of training, and ways to improve performance. They’ve seen documentaries on the sport they’ve chosen, follow elite athletes on every social media channel, and regularly read related blogs.
With such a comprehensive knowledge of anatomy and movement, it only makes sense that when athletes injure themselves, they can assess the cause and rehabilitate themselves, right?
Of course not you think— that’s for professionals! But surely minor aches and pains are fine to treat yourself…
Well yes and no.
When IS it ok to try and treat yourself?
When the pain is not acute, sharp, or numbing
If you have stiffness in your hips and you want to give yoga, or specified hip stretches a shot before seeing a professional, that is completely reasonable. You put your body through regular and vigorous exercise, you’re going to be sore occasionally. The important part is knowing when the pain moves from discomfort to sharp, acute pain. That is when you need to seek out a professional.
When the same pain has been happening for longer than a week
Know when to throw in the towel. If you’ve been feeling discomfort for over a week and whatever you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to get actual help. Chances are if things aren’t improving, you could be making whatever is going on worse.
If it interrupts your life and/or your sport
You need to see someone if you’re limping around the office every day, your joints hurt when you sit down, or if chasing after your children feels like a second workout. Pain and discomfort should not impede your ability to perform your sport or enjoy your everyday life.
Ok, but I know way more than most, why shouldn’t I try and diagnose myself?
You probably do have a better grasp of anatomy than the regular gym goer but unless you have an educational background in medical diagnostics, and years of experience, there is a very high chance that you could misdiagnose the issue. Above and beyond that, chiropractors, physiotherapists, and other rehabilitative professionals are able to send you for further tests like MRI’s and ultrasounds if they deem it necessary.
It’s better to definitively determine the issue sooner than later for 3 very important reasons:
Improper diagnosis can lead to further injury
Shoulder pain is very common and also difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. What might feel like the common rotator cuff tear, can range from something as simple as impingement syndrome to an AC joint sprain.
Referral pain is common and very difficult for non-professionals to diagnose
A powerlifter once came to Dr.Leong with continual wrist pain they couldn’t identify the source of. They tried long stints of rest, wrist braces, wraps, and other wrist rehabilitation exercises but nothing worked. After a proper movement assessment, Dr.Leong informed the patient that a majority of the pain was stemming from unengaged scapulas which were putting undue strain on the wrists in any type of arm loading movement, especially while bench pressing. The patient has had improved wrist pain and mobility since learning to properly activate those muscles.
This type of referral pain is not uncommon in any sport. The body is entirely connected and strain or disengagement in one area can lead to pain in another. A professional will be far more likely to be able to diagnose this than even the most in tune athlete.
Even if your assessment is correct, you aren’t qualified to provide rehabilitation
Injury rehabilitation goes above and beyond assigning appropriate exercises. It’s also ensuring the body moves the way it is supposed in order to create correct movement patterning, assessing how the injury is healing, and watching for other imbalances. Rehabilitation is a careful balancing act of correcting old movement patterns, caring for mending tissue and building a stronger foundation to go forward with. Years of experience and specified training make this process effective, it shouldn’t be stumbled into or there’s risk of doing further damage.
It is important to listen to your body. A good athlete will often have an idea of what might be going on but this shouldn’t detract from seeking out appropriate help. There is no reason to make a bad situation worse by trying to DIY injury rehab. If you have any questions on any issues you might be facing, our Dynamic team offers consults and is here to help. Feel free to contact us here or to book an appointment.