One of the toughest parts of the recovery journey that we see day in and day out is day 1 of what we call “force absorption testing.”
I would imagine this concept isn’t unique to Neuro Therapy – there are similar moments during the recovery process for everyone, whether they are just “resting” their injury until it gets better, going through traditional physical therapy, or have recently undergone a surgery.
It’s that moment when you get to test the activity that’s most important to you and see how the injury feels. Whether it’s just going for a walk, jogging, biking, or getting back on the field, you finally get to see how you’ll feel going at a little higher intensity than what you’ve been allowed to do in therapy so far.
So what makes it so tough?
Surely, this is a joyous occasion. All the hard work and time you put in to therapy is about to pay off!
Except when it doesn’t (at least not on day 1…)
In 90% of cases, that first day of testing isn’t about being 100% pain free or to feel like you’re performing at your best again.
Day 1 of testing is about starting to acclimate your body and more specifically the nervous system, to the forces that are required to do that activity again without any hesitancy or guarding.
Because it’s been so long since you last performed that activity without pain, it’s extremely likely the nervous system will still be guarding. And when the nervous system is guarding, it causes the brain to send off signals like pain, stiffness, and “this feels weird.”
It takes repeated exposure to the activity over the course of several days in order for the body to “take the guards off” and realize the activity can be completed without any resistance. When the nervous system realizes this, it eventually allows the activity to be performed without pain, stiffness and the feeling of “this feels weird.”
In other words, to put it shortly:
You should expect there to be pain or some level of discomfort on Day 1 of testing – do not let it discourage you!
The goal of day 1 of testing is to establish a baseline. How much activity can you do before feeling discomfort? If you’re a runner, maybe its ¼ mile and you start to feel that nagging pull in your hamstring at a 2/10 pain level.
In general, we look at pain levels of 1s and 2s out of 10 as a warning signal sent by the nervous system. They aren’t there to indicate you’re doing harm – just to let you know “hey, we’ve been down this road before, and past experience tells me we might be doing an activity that can cause damage.”
We’ll encourage you to keep running through that 1 or 2 out of 10 until one of two things happen:
1) The discomfort goes from a 1 or 2 out of 10 to a lesser value (maybe none at all). That’s fantastic – it means the nervous system has realized there isn’t actually a threat present and has started to ease up on the guarding mechanism.
2) The discomfort goes from a 1 or 2 out of 10 to a greater value. That’s great as well, because now we know and can start gauging progress as you continue with the recovery process. Our goal will be to continue working at it to extend the amount of work you can do without discomfort levels elevating to a more alarming level.
Primary message of this post? Don’t get discouraged on day 1 of testing your body with your favorite activity! It’s only purpose is to establish a baseline for where you’re at in the recovery process.
The recovery process is a journey with ups and downs along the way, but you will reach the end goal!
About the Author
Evan Lewis is a nationwide leader in Neuro Therapy and founded the Baltimore area's only specialist Neuro Therapy facility.
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