I’ve been thinking about how to share my knee recovery story. I believe what I learned and experienced can benefit anyone with an injury.
If this helps someone like it helped me, I’m glad for it.
December 2011, I had a partial piece of my meniscus (left knee, unrepairable) removed. Before it was removed, I had tried for a year to avoid surgery and work around it.
If I didn’t want to play sports again, specifically Ultimate, I could have been perfectly functional without surgery. However, I wanted to play Ultimate again.
I did extensive rehab and training after surgery. I tried playing 8 months ago and my knee swelled up after the game. That experience had really put me on guard to avoid that happening again.
I continued rehabbing with a new plan, felt good, and asked my coach when he would know I would be able to play again?
He told me I was ready a month ago. He told me a bit about how the brain will cause pain and how we experience it, sent me a youtube lecture to watch, and said I was ready.
He presented everything I had already done – I had surgery and the doctor said it went well, I had PT to reactivate muscles, and I’ve been training with running, jumping, and cutting activities and its been going really well.
I was sitting there reading his email and thinking the reason I’m worried is because I still feel some pain in my knee after certain workouts.
To me, this pain was my body telling me my knee was not ready.
He told me how the brain will over protect in the case of injury.
The brain will subconsciously wire you to “feel” more pain, be more sensitive to pain, at the site of the injury EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NO TISSUE DAMAGE HAPPENING AT ALL.
I took a small leap of faith (like I said, all the facts lined up that I was recovered) and played Ultimate that night.
Next morning, no knee pain whatsoever. Played again the next day, no knee pain. It’s been a couple of months now since that first game and I’ve experienced no swelling in my knee.
My confidence in my knee went from shaky to rock solid overnight. My perspective on what my body is capable of completely changed as well.
Months after I started playing again, I went back and watched the video in its entirety. Here is the video lecture he sent me. It’s almost an hour long and the guy is pretty funny.
If you only have a 30 seconds, watch 40:40 to 41:10. Apply that concept to any injury and think about the implications!
Here is my summary and take on it.
The brain causes pain. Once the brain experiences pain from an incident, it creates a pattern of that incident and wires itself to trigger pain “faster” from that incident.
This makes sense from a survival point of view. You want your brain to learn what is dangerous and warn you quickly.
However, this patterning is subconscious and happens for any incident of pain.
If you twist your ankle, if you tweak your back, if you have an ache in your shoulder, all these occurrences of pain create patterns as well.
For someone doing physical training, this can lead to over sensitive patterning of pain! What that means is the person is ACTUALLY FEELING PAIN but there is NO TISSUE DAMAGE GOING ON.
Nothing is physically being hurt but you unfortunately and honestly actually feel real pain.
These patterns ultimately lead to avoidance behavior. You start to avoid movements that you think will trigger pain and then you end up limiting functional capabilities.
This is exactly what happened to me and the day I decided to believe and play, I took a huge step in breaking a mental pattern of pain.
I am not saying you should ignore pain. I am not saying the pain you feel isn’t real.
If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, they may have built up patterns to express pain quickly that you can’t shut off easily.
The video I linked above is not just a lecture. It is an incredible and free pain education tool that can give you the perspective to change patterns.
If you are someone on the climb up from injury, bear in mind the patterning that has been created from the injury. Regaining physical function will need to happen together with expanding mental function as well.
This is what I did not realize or do. My physical recovery is all I focused on and for a lack of a better phrase, I kept “listening to my body” a bit too long.
Even though I was fully functional, my body’s residual pain signals made me think I was not. It took new information (like my coach and the video above) to convince me and start reseting the patterns in my mind.