The Blessing of Pain. What Did I Learn?

I have a confession, I had four ankle sprains in one year and was careless enough to skip rehabilitation! After the first injury I stayed home and was committed to exercise, but only for two weeks. Once I felt better, I forgot about the sprain and was consumed by a full time job in a hospital and another part time in a private clinic, besides four days of working out at the gym!

Each of the following times, I convince myself that my feet are made from titanium and skip rehab. I never took consequences seriously, although I used to advice my patients on the importance of taking it slowly and commit to physiotherapy! I remember spending a whole day standing on one foot after injuring my ankle for the third time and the next day going to the gym.

I only started paying attention to the crime I committed when I noticed how loose my feet became.  They are totally rotated inward and I think both lateral ligaments are completely torn because twisting is no longer painful. Sooner, my knees became painful and my gait felt awkward.  The physio side of me started analyzing the situation. I have chronic ankle instability, pronated feet, valgus knees and you guessed it right patellofemoral pain syndrome! All the joints in my lower body were screaming with intolerable pain requiring immediate action.

I began to realize how hyperactive I was, always in rush for achieving goals and blaming myself if I ever considered a break. Slowing myself down was very hard to achieve that it took me years to be able to constrain myself to less tasks and commitments without feeling guilty about it.

The good news is it is never too late. Pacing activities and obligatory breaks slowed me down and gave me some time to recover. I gave up the part time job and focused on rehabilitating my body by strengthening my quads and pronators along with many balance and flexibility exercises.  The pain is less now and I run with less deviations.

But for me, the bright side of this story is in my perception of pain. I believe that pain is a huge blessing. It’s a mystery yet an amazing motivator for change. Your body is communicating with you through pain, telling you something is wrong. In my case, my body was begging for a break!

My awareness became double fold thanks to pain. Paying more attention to walking and running mechanics helps avoiding more pain. At first, I was consciously fixing my posture and playing with my joint positions but with time it became a habit and my body is doing it automatically. When you become aware you become grateful because we don’t appreciate a part of our body until it’s injured or in pain.  The gift of pain made me thankful of what I already have painful or painless.

This also reflected on my practice. I talk to my patients on how pain could be a friend not an enemy, how could it teaches us about ourselves and this can only happen when we are willing to understand pain and accept it. More importantly, pain taught me how to show empathy so now whenever I tell my patient ‘’I have been in your shoes’’ I really mean it.

Runner with ankle pain

Chronic Ankle Instability Risk Identification

Learn how to identify and prevent chronic ankle instability after an ankle sprain in a short online course with Cailbhe Doherty