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The One Thing Everyone Should Know to Get Well from Injury or Surgery Faster

For many of us, every time the movie Shawshank Redemption comes on; you stop what you are doing to watch, no matter how many times you may have seen the movie (if you have not seen it, warning, spoiler alert!). It never ceases to amaze how far Andy Dufresne had to crawl in unspeakable sewage filth, five football fields in length, to finally attain his freedom. And to think, it all started by accident when he carved his name with a tiny rock hammer in his cell, which led to a piece of wall material falling to the ground in the process. 

In life, it can feel like our progression to live fully has been put on hold because of injury or surgery.   Limitations in our daily activities can even make us feel like we are trapped inside an invisible cell.  We can see what’s happening all around us but cannot participate or feel like we can.  Whether it be an actual prison cell wall or the tissues in our body, all materials have a breaking point.  If either is  stressed beyond a certain point by either picking at it with a rock hammer to break out of prison or returning to activity too quickly, breakdown or injury will occur.  Time and again, the most common reason recovery from injury takes longer than expected is because of the belief that – “If I feel no pain, then that must mean I am back to normal.  I’m cured!”  This misconception is why healing is slowed and returning to normal is never achieved; healing was never given the proper time and attention.

Our Skewed Expectations

This type of thinking is reinforced by our hurried and sped-up life today, where we expect lightning-fast results based on upgrades in technology and service; look no further than Amazon Delivery! Unfortunately, our bodies cannot be expected to heal faster without the right amount of stress through appropriate exercises – this takes time, but the proper approach can shorten that time.  Are you frustrated that your progression is not a steady climb but is rather two steps forward and one to two steps back?  Attention to detail by your therapist and some “elbow grease” on your part is still required to feel like you’re “as good as new!” When going through treatment for any injury or recovery from post-surgery, if one can keep a single important concept in mind, there should be little to no delay in returning to normal life.  This concept is the Body Bank Account

The Body Bank Account

Like a regular bank account, you can either put money in the bank or take money out.  You can either have a positive amount of money in your account or overdraw and be in the negative.  Putting ‘money’ in your Body Bank Account means doing all the right things: having a proactive mindset, performing your prescribed exercises on the day-to-day, being mindful of your posture at all times, getting enough rest, and intaking enough protein and nutrient-dense foods to promote healing.  

By putting money in the bank, you are building up enough positive reserves to cushion against the physical stresses of wear and tear activities.  Whether you are in the positive by a million dollars or by a single dollar, it is all going to feel the same.  You will not experience pain no matter how large or small the cushion is unless you have less than zero dollars and are in the negative.

But timing matters too.  If you do too much too fast, even of your prescribed putting-money-in-the-bank exercises, that can be detrimental, causing tissues to overload and break down.  This is taking money out of the Body Bank Account, and leading you into the negative.  An example of this is putting too much weight on a healing fracture.  Bone needs to bear weight to progress and heal, but to do so too fast can slow healing and cause persistent pain or discomfort.  Much like an actual bank account, being in the negative for your Body Bank Account is painful and the farther negative you are, the more pain you feel.  How many times have you started to feel “normal again” after treatment, only to come back a day or two later and feel like you are back to square one, in pain and misery? WHY IS THAT?  Here is an example that will put it all together: 

From your previous treatment session for your neck pain, you started way in the negative at, let’s say, -$50 and with pain, but you left that session feeling no pain.  Because you felt no pain, you know that physical therapy assisted you in putting money in your Body Bank Account,so now you are in the positive.  But by how much?  Probably not by a million dollars, but maybe a solid $5, just enough to get you out of the negative and be pain-free.  However, after you left the appointment, you neglected your posture and did not perform your prescribed exercises provided by your physical therapist to be performed every two hours. Those neglected actions did nothing to add more money into your Body Bank Account.  Not only that, but you also overspent your $5 cushion because you felt so good, you decided to paint with watercolors for an hour in a hunched position, something you used to do all the time, but you haven’t performed in a month.  Your neck was not ready for that dramatic change in activity and with the lack of putting money back into your account, ultimately it costs you, let’s say, $55.  This leaves you in the negative dollar amount of once again -$50 along with your original neck pain.  When you return for your next physical therapy appointment, it was as if nothing ever changed from last time.  

Ultimately, You Have Control

In life, doing something too much and at the wrong time can come at a cost of our most valuable currency; TIME.  From the example above, you stopped working towards doing things that put money in the Body Bank Account to build a cushion.  By continuing to neglect to put money in your Body Bank Account, you end up not being able to thrive and live how you want to live secondary to limitations from being in pain.  We maintain or enhance our actual financial capabilities through “elbow grease,” hard work of our mind, body, or both.  The requirements to heal our injuries or recover from surgery are no different.  However, unlike the material of Andy Dufresne’s prison cell wall, our tissues in our bodies have the capability to be resilient and heal themselves.  The only way for that to occur is to continue to do the right things to put money in the Body Bank Account, exercises that appropriately stress the tissues so that they can continue to heal and progress forward.  This is different for bone, tendon, muscle, ligaments, and discs and can be guided expertly by your physical therapist.  Putting money in the bank is something we literally do for our financial future and figuratively for the future of our health.  For both, it never ends.  Fortunately, you have direct control in dictating how fast you recover from injury. 

Investing in Your Health

How fast you recover and the excess amount of time and money you spend on treating your injury absolutely depends on your understanding and appreciating this overlooked concept when working with your physical therapist.  If this concept sounds new or has not been addressed clearly in other treatments you have already attempted, this may explain why you are still seeking help from a chronic or recurring injury.  Mobile Spine Specialist can help you navigate this challenging situation to save you time and money invested in your health. We are your guide in overcoming your pain from injuries or post-surgery and will lead you towards building wealth in your Body Bank Account safely by being methodical and clear in our “investment planning.”  There should be no reason to feel that your life is on hold or like you are trapped in a prison cell like Andy Dufresne.  When you are ready to take control of your Body Bank Account and make an appointment, we will be here for you! To schedule now for an appointment click here!

Check out our video to further understand the Body Bank Account Concept.   

Jeff Lum PT, MPT, OCS, Dip. MDT is a physical therapist and owner of Mobile Spine Specialist serving the North Austin Texas communities, including Cedar Park, Round Rock, Georgetown, Leander, and Pflugerville. You can learn more about how he helps individuals overcome pain and improve mobility. To make a connection, reach out to him.

References Researched:

Bleakley, C.M., Glasgow, P., MacAuley, D.C., 2012. PRICE needs updating, should we call the POLICE? British Journal of Sports Medicine 46, 220–221. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2011-090297

Buckwalter, J.A., Grodzinsky, A.J., 1999. Loading of Healing Bone, Fibrous Tissue, and Muscle: Implications for Orthopaedic Practice: Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 7, 291–299. https://doi.org/10.5435/00124635-199909000-00002

Cook, J., Docking, S., 2015. “Rehabilitation will increase the ‘capacity’ of your …insert musculoskeletal tissue here….” Defining ‘tissue capacity’: a core concept for clinicians. Br J Sports Med 49, 1484–1485. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2015-094849

Mascaró, A., Cos, M.À., Morral, A., Roig, A., Purdam, C., Cook, J., 2018. Load management in tendinopathy: Clinical progression for Achilles and patellar tendinopathy. Apunts. Medicina de l’Esport 53, 19–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apunts.2017.11.005

One Response

  1. Excellent advice, Jeffrey! I wish you were back in Cupertino, so that my wife could benefit from your care.

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About the Author

Picture of Jeff Lum

Jeff Lum

Physical therapist and owner of Mobile Spine Specialist serving the North Austin Texas Communities.

Find out more about how he helps individuals overcome pain and improve mobility:

Your Local Texas Physical Therapy Specialist

Serving the Central Texas Communities

  • Austin, TX
  • Cedar Park, TX
  • Pflugerville, TX
  • Leander, TX
  • Round Rock, TX
  • Georgetown, TX

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