By Jason Silvernail DPT
Many people seem frustrated that their pain has lasted so long, past the normal body healing time. Often, this is ‘mechanical pain’ and is related to sensitivity of your nervous system to physical stress. Understanding how to help your nerve tissue recover and tolerate physical stress/load again is a lot like watering your lawn. It’s not a question of just waiting for enough time for healing. It’s a question of providing the right environment and the right time for it to recover, and then the right stresses to build up its strength. We need to do three things to grow back healthy grass - give it a rest so it can take root, water it consistently to grow it back, and then walk on it carefully to build it back up.
Stage 1: Rest - Let it Take Root
To get your grass to grow back, you first need to stop walking on it while it’s growing. Depending on how brown it is, you may want to walk on it just a little, or not at all. If you have a volleyball game on it, you can be sure that will REALLY slow down the process. Your nerve tissue is the same way. As it heals, you can load it with exercise, activity, or prolonged postures more successfully. But early in this process, you need to minimize aggravating activities and prolonged positions, in order to maximize your healing. You will notice slowly that you can tolerate more activity and a longer time in different postures, but this ability is a direct result of how often you are doing the movement therapy to “dose” the tissue with blood. This stage ends when you are past the worst of the pain.
Stage 2: Build - Let it Grow
In addition to resting it, you also need to water it, that’s how it gets its nourishment. Your nerve tissue is like that, too – only instead of water, it needs a regular blood supply and reduced mechanical stress in order to recover. Doing the movement therapy you’ve been practicing is how you both supply the tissue with blood and reduce the mechanical strain on the tissue. You will feel better as a direct result of the frequency that you do this in most cases. Now, if your grass is brown and dying, you don’t want to just dump a lot of water on it the first day – that will just get you a lot of mud. You need to start slowly and work yourself up. Some increased pain is expected after you start to do the movement therapy properly. This will go away with continued movement and activity. This stage ends when most of your daily pain is gone.
Stage 3: Strengthen - Toughen it Up
After your grass has started to grow back, you need to build up the root structure so that it will be stronger. You do this by slowly walking on it at first and then spending more time on it to allow it to build up. A healthy lawn is one that is strong enough to play games on without getting torn up. Your nerve tissue isn’t different - after it grows back in, you need to build up its tolerance by loading it with exercise and physical stress. The more you build up it’s tolerance, the less likely it is to get irritated again. This stage ends when you have minimal pain and you can do daily activities and additional things (like work or exercise) with relatively few symptoms.
How Long Does It Take?
It’s hard to predict the recovery of nerve irritation and nervous system sensitivity. As long as you are following the 3 step plan, you will get much better over time. It’s impossible to predict exactly WHEN or HOW MUCH you improve, but if you are doing your part, it’s simply a matter of time before things improve.
Rules for Regrowing Grass
1. Keep off the grass to let it take root 2. Water it slowly to build it up
3. Toughen it up with activity
Rules for Healing Nerve Tissue
1. Avoid aggravating things early
2. Restore it’s health with therapy
3. Strengthen it with exercise