‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is a very appropriate phrase when it comes to a lot of Physiotherapists. There are often lifestyle choices, strength and mobility work or function improvements that the professional preaches to their clients, but yet cannot commit to or attain themselves. Personally I find it very, very difficult giving out advice or placing expectations on someone if I cannot achieve that same thing myself. It is important that we as physios are able to manage our own injuries/functional limitations and live a healthy lifestyle. Whilst travelling overseas I have certainly reflected on this and wanted to share my experience with being on the other side of the fence, being an injured physio!
Lets rewind the clock a few years – I was playing football and had an injury where my hip got caught at an awkward angle in a tackle and caused some damage to structures within the hip joint. These structures are part of the articulating aspect of the hip joint, meaning they move with and against each other when you move your leg. At the time this was extremely restricting and I weighed up opinions that included surgery, injections and ongoing pain management. As a very conservative and evidence based health practitioner and person in general I decided that taking the rest, strengthen and mobilise approach would be the best option for me at this stage in life and career. This meant performing a lot of specific strengthening exercises and researching new ways to mobilise my hip joint to reduce any restriction and improve performance. Thankfully the outcome from this was very positive and within a few months the hip was holding up to the rigours of general life and football.
Unfortunately with any change in environment and scenery these routines that you find yourself doing, to manage certain niggles or injuries, tend to taper off. I am going to say I am 100% guilty of this on my recent travels. I thought that I would be able to surf for 5-6 hours daily and not have to keep up the consistent strength and mobility training that had become part of my daily life at home. This thought led to my hip becoming a mess. It was restricted in range, was ‘pinching’ when sitting on my surfboard and then causing me a lot of grief in the evenings and nights when I was recovering from big days. At first I chose the ‘she’ll be right’ method given I was away on a holiday and wanted to relax, but it didn’t take long to realise that the hip was back to where it had been 2-3 years ago playing football. I am a physio who now has to become the patient!
It is amazing what some simple strengthening exercises can do. Targeting my glutes and hamstrings to offset some adductor and hip flexor bias from the sitting position in surfing and then trying to get my hip moving better through flexion/extension and opening it up into external rotation was a key to recovering from this injury. This may sound complex but it wasn’t. Knowing that I didn’t have the resources available and wanted to limit how much time I had to spend working on this, I narrowed my exercises down to 4 and applied these to my daily routine before, between and after surfing. It is amazing the difference it made – pain free during surfing and during the day, with only some stiffness and pain during the nights.
Although the experience was frustrating and painful, it certainly made me reflect on all my patients back home and their injuries. It is a very good thing for a physio to have these injuries because you put the shoe on the other foot and get to be the patient for a change. This instils great perspective and empathy, which is a very important trait in all good healthcare professionals and something I will always strive to maintain within my own practise.
Good news though guys! I am currently chilling out in El Salvador, back surfing more than ever and better than ever. Hope you are all well, safe and injury free. Missing you all but also loving the travelling life.
If you want to check out my 4 exercises that I have been using to maintain a healthy hip joint below….
1. Single Leg Squat
2. Theraband Single Leg Glute Activation
3. Couch Stretch
4. Pretzel Glute Get-ups
5. Blackroll Trigger Point Release on Glutes (bonus)
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