Let’s be honest, rehab programmes are not what we want to be doing. In fact, they are probably bottom of the list of things that we want to be doing with our day. Especially if you have a love for training hard in the gym or in sport, when you get injured and are told to work on your rehab exercises, it really does take away everything you know and enjoy.
Through recently working with a 17-year-old rock climber who has a history of recurrent patella dislocations, I could see how demoralising and unmotivating it was for her to go through 3 months of rehab. So, it got me thinking, what ways can we as Therapists make rehab more engaging and distract from the fact that our patients are injured and therefore can’t do what they want to.
Here are my top strategies for staying engaged with your rehab programme:
· Focus on all the things that you can still do. Just because one joint or body part is carrying an injury, think about how it allows time to get really good at other things. For example, my client had a knee injury, but we would always do some upper body exercises in between each set of ‘rehab’ exercises. It kept her engaged by always coming out of the session with a guaranteed improvement on something.
· Take the time to understand your injury fully. Injuries aren’t straight forward or black and white so taking time to understand yours may make you realise there’s less to work on than you thought, or it’s more easily treatable or there’s lots that you can do pain free which will help the injury.
· Write down why it is so important to be injury free? What does being able to train give you that you now don’t have? Does it keep you focused in your work when you train in the morning? Does it help your mental wellbeing? Does it allow you to socialise? Does it give you a sense of achievement? Then work out how you can still have those things through something else alongside doing your rehab.
· Do them somewhere fun. Take yourself to the gym, drag a friend along. Go to a class and get the rehab exercises done straight before it. Just don’t shut yourself away at home spending endless time alone and down. This will straight away associate negative feelings towards to task so do it in an uplifting environment.
· Have measured outcomes for all of your rehab exercises. This way you know exactly when you are making progress. It is so easy to feel like you are not, so it is a sure way of physically seeing progress which let’s face it makes us all want to commit that little bit more. Why let hard work go to waste?
· Come up with a reward for yourself that you will allow yourself to have or do if you complete your rehab. It must incentivise you enough though! Write down or tell someone what it is, and don’t allow yourself this thing unless you have done exactly what you have said you are going to.
So hopefully a few, if not all of those points will keep you engaged with your rehab if you are struggling to see the fun in it. Consistency and persistence is key to getting through any injury and the little things day to day make the biggest difference.