Goals are essential in keeping motivation throughout injury rehab, yet there are some other elements which can support these aims and subsequently enhance the chances of success. There are a variety of methods to choose from, which means that you can use different methods at different stages of rehab for the greatest effect. It also means that if one style becomes less effective over time you can try something new.
Creating a better mental state with which to tackle your goals can be assisted by visualisation techniques.
This requires the development of your minds eye to imagine future success, relive past achievements or reduce stress by creating a scene that creates a sense of peace. For example you may see yourself achieving a certain goal like reaching the peak of a favourite hiking spot or revisiting a favourite childhood holiday place where you can let go let of all tension and anxiety. You can include your other senses of taste, touch, smell, and hearing to enhance the effects.
These mental imagery exercises can also be accompanied by music or guided by an audio recording of a therapist. In fact for any of these methods, background music, such as nature sounds for relaxation or your favourite motivational music, can assist your technique.
When using mental imagery techniques take a few deep breaths before beginning to help you relax. Close your eyes and create a vivid and convincing image of what you want to heal or physically achieve. Throughout try to maintain a positive attitude with realistic expectations of what can happen next. To the best of your ability, make use of all your senses to create a mental image as realistic as possible. Should a session be interrupted or not go as planned just stop, have a break and start over.
This method can be carried out by itself initially and later, what is learned, can be incorporated in to other methods of meditation, visualisation or supporting activities such as Yoga or Tai Chi.
In this method sit comfortably with your back straight, placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Breath in through your nose, then exhale through your mouth and try to push out as much air as you can, whilst contracting your abdominal muscles.
By ensuring that the hand on your stomach moves in and out with each breath and that the hand on your chest moves as little as possible, you will be able to achieve the goal of breathing from your abdomen.
Deep breathing will obviously increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, which can then enhance stamina, boost your energy levels, assist circulation and elevate your mood. Breathing from the abdomen will also strengthen your abdominal muscles and posture, whether sitting or exercising.
Visualisation and deep breathing requires a bit of practice and is great for when you are initially laid out with an injury. But once the strengthening phase of the rehabilitation program begins, moving meditation could better meet your needs.
This meditation can be performed using any form of rhythmic movement, such as walking or swimming. As you are required to be mindful whilst performing this moving meditation, it is best to choose a simple activity where you can immerse yourself in how your body feels at every moment of the exercise.
Perhaps easy to do at first, there are ways to bring yourself back should your mind wander. By simply focusing on the rhythm of both your limbs and breathing, both of which will be helped by exploration of the two previously mentioned methods.
Staying relaxed during rehabilitation can be difficult especially since your body may be in pain. By systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body you can identify and then address the effects of muscular tension.
Another way of achieving physical relaxation is through a body scan, similar to the progressive muscle relaxation just mentioned. This scan simply focuses on each part of the body, working from the tip of your toes through to the top of your head. It is a gradual progression from one part of the body to the next, using awareness and deep breathing to create the sensation of weightlessness.
Through an internal dialogue, you can replace any negative thoughts with something more positive. Whether it is an affirmation or transformation technique, you can incorporate it into any of the above methods to keep you on track.
Affirmations assist with internal negative chatter, and can replace thoughts such as ‘I cannot do this’ with ‘take your time, there’s no rush’. They can also assist with physical tension that may build up when a session is not going as planned, and could be counteracted by the statement ‘relax your shoulders, loosen your neck’.
Transformations aim to assist visualisation methods. If when performing a visualisation technique your minds eye drifts to tightly twisted vines you could imagine the vines unfurling. There are many of these counter methods and statements to choose from and inspiration can be easily sourced online.
These internal efforts can be complimented by external encouragement. Having the organisational and technical support from your therapist is great, yet words of support from them and those close to you, can lift your spirits greatly.
This social support can also come from your work colleagues, teammates or people who can relate to your particular type of injury. The empathy of others can help with the emotional adjustments along the way plus provide clarity and perspective for your particular situation.
The combined effects on injury rehab
Visualisation, breathing and meditation techniques coupled with goal-setting and social support are the key psychological factors of injury rehabilitation. Mastering these will motivate your mental and physical abilities to a higher level and prepare you for both success and failure.
Just like the physical treatment that is administered and the rehabilitation exercises that are performed, these factors play an integral role in the recovery process. Your physiotherapist will play a major role in injury recovery, but ultimately there is the opportunity to empower yourself by seeking support, being involved in selecting goals and developing your own mental tools to assist these aims.
With all of this, your chances of a successful recovery from injury will have the best possible odds.