DIY physio: A personal rehab journey

Physiotherapist Sophie gives us an insight into her recovery and rehab following on from her injury.

When I wrote this blog it was 4 weeks since my accident and in that time I have had to learn to adapt.  I think its important to share how hard recovering from an injury can be and the steps I took as a physio myself to make this the most efficient recovery I could.

It's been 4 weeks since my crash and I am no longer able to do anywhere near the amount of physical activity I'm used to, especially considering the latest turn with the warm weather for the triathlon season about to start!

It's been a tough journey so far, coming from being totally reliant on someone else with a lot of pain, difficulty sleeping and discomfort experienced day to day, with only tiny increments of movements being made.

Part of my personal strategy of not going completely bonkers was to set personal rehab goals and mini targets. This kept me in a positive mindset, and recording what I could achieve really helped me monuotr my own progress. It's something I do instinctively as a physio and discuss with patients regularly, but I honestly underestimated how much it helped on a personal level. 

When you are in pain, or frustrated and things aren't going as planned to have something to look back on, and see for yourself how far you have come is a rewarding feeling. We easily forget that just last week we couldn't do 'X' as we are so focused on how much we are limited by. I think this is a normal human reaction, but to have the ability to reflect and see the bigger picture is definitely needed in terms of successful rehabilitation.

So to start with I needed a sling on my left arm for the left clavicle fracture, and a cast on my right wrist and arm (below elbow level) for the fractures in my fingers. I was sleeping on my back with plenty of pillows to try and achieve a decent nights sleep. I was taking Co-codamol, regular paracetamol and ibuprofen and using ice packs during the day. Showering was good fun with having to wrap the cast up in various plastic bags and elastic bands to prevent it getting wet. (I am now confident in a home-made tourniquet if I ever turn drug user!) And having to get my hair washed by my boyfriend/mother or anyone willing!

After about 10 days I could reduce the painkillers off and just used one Co-codamol at night to send me off to sleep, as I was still uncomfortable. I now know why my patients keep their stash of Co-codamol!
At this stage my movement is coming back slowly and I'm about halfway to a full range of movement in my left shoulder, and able to grip with my right hand and carry small objects. I've learnt the hard way where my limitarions are by trying too hard too soon - and ending up in tears clutching my left shoulder.

I've started having physio myself purely for another pair of eyes to keep a record of me, and another reason to get me out if the house!

After an agonising 4 weeks I'm back to see the consultant and I'm feeling pretty confident about my progress, No more painkillers, the X rays look good and full range of movement. I'm now allowed the cast off and a splint, however, I can't return to work for another 2 weeks. I know people are thinking "2 weeks legitimately off work, what's to complain about?" But at this stage I am starting to be able to do more and feel almost back to normal. So to feel as though I have to hold fire for another 2 weeks felt like an eternity to wait. 
The great news from that consultation is that I don't need surgery on my clavicle, and can just focus on physio and management.

Perhaps the best advice throughout all of this so far is the words the consultant said to me on my last visit: "It's biology. You know this, you teach your patients this all the time. You can't cheat it".

I have to learn to be patient. In being a patient myself I do see the world of physio differently. I can fully appreciate how pain can distort your thinking, your mood, your outlook. This no doubt make a difference on your progression. In my opinion this is somewhere where a physio can really make a difference with empathy and empowering patients. So my aim when I do get back to work is to not forget this and keep that patience.

Sophie Apps