I am currently six weeks post my ACL reconstruction, meniscal repair, and lateral release. It has been very odd being on the opposite side of the fence, now being a patient instead of an exercise rehabilitation specialist, so I really wanted to give a bit of an insight into my recovery so far. I am hoping this blog serves to give a virtual hug to those going through an injury or recovery now, and a reminder that you are not alone! I am really trying to utilise this journey to become a better practitioner and human. Below are 4 of the biggest things I have learnt so far from weeks 1-6 post op.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
To go from being able to work full time, go to the gym every day, go for a hike on the weekend, to struggling to get up out of bed (literally) is hard. Having surgery, or a significant injury affects EVERY PART of your life. Before having this operation, I made a promise to myself that I would be kind to myself and reassure myself that it is OKAY to not be okay sometimes. I gave myself a few days post-surgery to feel sorry for myself, have a cry, let people fuss over me and process the road ahead. Even when I started moving again, I was consciously making it a priority to tell myself it is OKAY that I cannot clean my entire house in an hour like I used to, it is OKAY to let someone carry my bag for me and instead of feeling frustrated about what I couldn’t do right now, take the situation for what it was and feel grateful at the amount of support I have.
Overall, I had two weeks off work but during that time off l still set an alarm Monday to Friday to get up, do my exercises, have a shower and get ready for the day (even if that was getting into some fresh trackies). I had my coffee outside with my dog and looked at my “schedule” for the day. I also made sure that I have set reminders in my phone to complete my exercises again at mid-day and then again before dinner, to ice three times a day, to continue to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at similar times every day and set reminders of when to take my medications. This meant that I was up and about every hour doing something.
SET GOALS EVERYDAY
At around day 4 post op when the pain was becoming more tolerable and I was becoming more comfortable with my brace and crutches, I started to set mini goals for myself. With the schedule I mentioned above, I started adding in tasks, whether that be take the bin bag out (I have stairs in my house so this was a nightmare for me), unpack the dishwasher, do a load of washing, whatever. Over the days, I gradually increased the number of tasks I was completing each day. I am not saying every day was perfect. I had one or two days where I lapsed in motivation because it more was comfortable to stay on the couch and watch an extra episode of Suits instead of completing my rehab, but this is where accountability and playing tricks on your brain come in. My personal favourite was telling myself I would get up to complete one or two easy stretches, and voila! Once I was up, I completed my entire programme. I found ticking off my goals each day helped keep my sanity in check, boosted my mood and helped with returning to work.
GET OUT OF THE DAMN HOUSE
During the period I was at home, I made sure to let my friends and family know that I needed them to help me get out of the house. If you are feeling anxious about leaving the house, keep your social outings brief (starting with 1-2 hours) or do something close to home so you can leave easily if you need too. Obviously, I had to miss out on some things, however I have made sure if there was a way I could attend a social outing, I would. For example, I really did not want to miss out on going to the pub with my friends to watch the Western Derby (although being a Fremantle supporter I kind of wish I did miss the game…) so I made sure I planned in advance to reserve a table at a venue that was easily accessible for me and comfortable for me to prop my leg up and also secured a lift there and home given I was unable to drive. Another thing I did for some stimulation was going and staying with my parents and friends for a day or two just to give myself a change of scenery. It is so important to have some sort of mental outlet and distraction, even if it is for a short period.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my recovery journey and the next phase of my rehab!
Tayla O’Halloran (B.Sc. – Exercise Physiology)
Workers Compensation Specialist
Exercise Rehabilitation Team Leader (AEP) (ESSAM)