By Capital Ortho
How injuries can affect your mental health
It’s no secret that a positive outlook plays a vital role in maintaining your body’s health — both mentally and physically. However, maintaining a positive outlook in the midst of a world that is largely out of our control is not always easy. For many of our patients who are recovering from injuries, maintaining that positive outlook can be even harder.
Whether you’re an athlete, a casual exerciser, a child or someone who realizes their body does not work in the same capacity that it used to, injuries can be devastating.
“Orthopedic injuries are typically traumatic and life-altering, so we try to guide our patients through the process and tell them that God has a plan for them and that this is a part of His plan for their lives,” said Dr. Chad Hosemann, a surgeon at Capital Ortho. “You don’t typically choose to see an orthopedic surgeon unless something is wrong, so oftentimes when we see our patients, they already feel sad, unsure and vulnerable.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, one of the most life-altering experiences for people with injuries is the realization that they are not always in control of their outcomes. This realization can lead to a feeling of being lost. For young people, who tend to have feelings of invincibility, it can be sobering to realize our body’s limitations.
In addition to the pain that comes with the initial injury, recovering from surgery, going through therapy and getting back to a sense of normalcy can feel daunting. In our busy, on-the-go lifestyles, the recovery period that involves slowing down and allowing the body to rest can lead to idle thoughts, loneliness and even depression.
The frustration that comes with recovery is often exacerbated outside of therapy settings and intensified in the places we should feel the safest — our homes. Limitations like not being able to pour your own coffee, put a contact lens in your eye, get up and down stairs, put on clothes by yourself, exercise like you used to, or even drive leave many people feeling frustrated and like a burden.
“Healing takes on many aspects, whether it’s physical, emotional, spiritual or mental,” said Dr. Bradley Kellum, a surgeon at Capital Ortho. “We have seen time and time again how maintaining a positive outlook during the injury and recovery process leads to better short-term and long-term outcomes.”
But what if you’re not recovering from an injury? None of us is jumping for joy at the thought of getting older. For many adults, they can begin to feel “old” when they suffer from regular joint pain or are unable to do things they have always enjoyed. These realizations can affect mental and physical health for years before a person seeks treatment.
There have been numerous studies compiled on the role that physical activity plays in mental and physical health. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety and depression and increasing self-esteem and cognitive function. Unfortunately, recovering from injuries can lead to a cessation of some physical activity until recovery. Limiting physical exercise can lead to weight gain, general tiredness or feelings of sadness for many.
“I’ve seen how hard it is for some patients to recover and the amount of work it takes to do rehab with orthopedic injuries,” said Dr. Matt Futvoye, a surgeon at Capital Ortho. “We each try to encourage our patients and give them the time to be heard and to know that their feelings are validated. We also encourage them that it will get better.”
At the end of the day — whether you are recovering from an injury or experiencing other joint issues — gaining perspective can make all the difference. While it might not feel like it, it is important to remember that what is in the present does not mean it will always be a part of the future. Even if the injury itself has chronic tendencies, patients can find ways to improve their physical health.
Remember, although injuries and ongoing pain are an unwelcome detour in the road of our lives, seeking treatment, remaining dedicated to therapy and maintaining an optimistic outlook are integral to physical and mental recovery.