of the Month
has had an injury knows how debilitating they can be, both mentally
and physically. I've been there myself, and agree with the author
that attitude can make the difference in recovery. Credit goes to
Marcia Middel. Best of Health. RM
Using Mind Power for Healing
Marcia Middel, PhD
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 24 - NO. 7 - JULY 96
are a competitive athlete or a recreational exerciser, recovering
from an injury can present a challenge. How you understand and respond
to the pain and limitation is a very individual experience based
on many factors. There are, however, certain responses and psychological
skills that can help most people take an active role in their own
do I begin?
initially feel overwhelmed by an injury. Your ability to cope will
greatly improve if you work closely with your doctor and other healthcare
providers to develop a clear plan for recovery.
rehabilitation begins with becoming informed about your injury.
It's important to know the extent of the injury, what your anticipated
recovery time will be, and what you must do to recover safely and
that you see yourself as an active participant in rehabilitation
planning and treatment. You may not understand the scientific aspects
of recovery. But you are the expert on your own experience--a reality
that may either help or hinder rehabilitation.
psychological effects can I expect?
How you respond
to your injury is also very important. Although certain sports or
activities have greater risk for injury than others, an injury is
generally not expected and never planned or welcomed. We train to
prevent an injury, but we rarely prepare for our emotional response
to an injury.
very different meaning for different people. For some, an injury
might be life threatening or career ending. For others, an injury
might take them away from a team or social structure that gives
them a sense of identity and community. An injury can also interfere
with a job or responsibilities at home. It's important, therefore,
that you acknowledge that this requires
coping skills to help you work through this loss--with professional
help if necessary.
type of mind-set is helpful?
redirecting your response to the injury may aid recovery. At the
very least, it can help you maintain a positive outlook as you heal.
A few suggestions:
your pain and injury as something that will go away and will
yourself positively every day about your ability to cope with
and recover from your injury.
and physically befriend your pain as a guide to recovery. Pushing
too hard may cause reinjury, but fearing the pain may lead to
a too-passive approach.
desire to recover to help integrate your sense of self and your
mental and physical healing power. Connect with your emotions
and let them guide you through the healing process: When you
feel emotionally overwhelmed, nurture yourself by doing enjoyable
things; when you feel emotionally strong, use that energy to
progress in recovery.
have an especially intense response to injury but can use their
feminine ability to connect with their emotions to help guide
maintain your sense of identity and importance through activities
that help you feel good about yourself. Express your needs and
concerns to your healthcare team. Identify any negative mental
responses to injury, then reframe them to promote a positive
approach to healing. Be aware of your current level of function
and what function you have lost, then move beyond those limitations
to envision your future level of function.
to ask for and receive help. Surround yourself with emotionally
and physically supportive people, and limit your interaction
with those who hinder your healing process. By all means, be
creative, humorous, and positive in your approach to the daily
inconveniences caused by your injury.
techniques are useful?
mental techniques can also aid in your recovery:
and body need to know what tension and relaxation feel like.
Starting with your head and working down, alternate flexing
the muscles in each body part (producing tension), then relaxing
them. Mentally and physically memorize the feeling of relaxation.
Try to incorporate that feeling whenever possible throughout
your recovery. This technique also helps you readily recognize
tension so that you can then work through it.
control can help modify stress and your response to pain. Pay
attention to your breathing during times of pain. Try to breathe
freely and stay relaxed. Allow your lungs to fill completely
by extending your stomach as you breathe and by feeling the
air move in and out of the bottom of your lungs. Visualize healing,
relaxing energy entering your body as you inhale, and a release
of any negative thoughts as you exhale.
can enhance healing by creating a positive internal atmosphere.
Focus on a scene you find positive, nurturing, and healing.
As you practice this technique, you may also want to listen
to music that you find peaceful. Use your progressive relaxation
and breathing to facilitate this process.
Once you are
totally relaxed (or as relaxed as your injury will allow), begin
the visualization. Some people concentrate on total-body healing
and visualize a color or sound that represents healing as it moves
slowly through their entire body, cell by cell. Others prefer to
focus on the injured area and create a healing image (such as "blood
vessels sending out healing roots" or
"particles of calcium forming like snowflakes") and hold
the image and "see" the area healing. Some people combine
these techniques and images.
to create a meditative, self-hypnotic state focused on healing.
Practice this daily, as often as possible throughout the day. Some
people prefer to visualize only, while others like to combine visualization
with mental statements like, "I am healing," "I am
calm," or "I will get better."
is also helpful as a form of distraction from pain. Use your imagery
to pull yourself away from your body to a scene or favorite experience.
Finally, you may find this technique helpful to facilitate sleep.
Bring yourself into a very relaxed state, feel drowsiness come into
your body, and allow yourself to fall asleep.
the key to success?
of prolonged recovering from an injury can be daunting for anyone.
The success you experience will be anchored in developing both your
physical and psychological capacities to their fullest.
information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment.
Before starting a rehabilitation program, consult a physician.
is a psychologist at The Children's Hospital in Denver and in private
practice in Denver.
article is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice
and is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health-care
professionals. Consult your physician before beginning or making
changes in your diet, supplements or exercise program, for diagnosis
and treatment of illness and injuries, and for advice regarding
medications. Thanks. RM