So a week ago I got rear ended while at a stop exiting the freeway... thankfully, me and my car are okay. But it was still a bump and I was looking left when I got the slight whiplash and have had pain all week, especially the night of. I felt my neck getting stiff and my muscles guarded immediately. I panicked at first, because I've had a disc herniation/nerve root irritation 2 years ago (or a suspected on) and it still creeps up every now and then, but for the majority it's very much taken care of.
Then I stopped. I know beliefs and stress play a direct role in the pain signals felt, so this time around.. I tried to be extra positive about what I was thinking/feeling. I iced right away due to the pain because I felt my neck getting tight and guarded, took some Advil the night of, and was mindful of how much time I was spending in any one position. I've gradually incorporated some self-treatment over the week and things are doing much better. I think my a portion of my pain is significantly less intense because my controlling my fear/panic with it. I'm now starting gradual rehab for this and am returning back to my old routine.
Injuries can certainly be scary, but as a physical therapist, I'm all about empowering people to move through them. So I had to take my own advice!!
My question for you is, have you ever tried to actively control your perception of an injury to decrease stress and anxiety? Have you ever noticed a difference in it or your own anxiety/stress after?
Wow Leada, I'm glad you're ok! That sounds really scary, especially coming off the freeway!
I haven't had any major injuries but did have a pretty rough fall while road biking a year or so ago (and have some cool scars to boost!). I do remember my first thought was actually calming making sure I was out of the way of the cars and then secondly intentionally took deep, slow steady breaths to calm my nerves. That was probably more about the fear and shock than the pain, but it was interesting to notice how my brain went into calm/clarity mode.
However, usually my first thought when I have pain is to find the Advil. Hoping I don't experience some acute pain soon but I'll keep your suggestions in mind to notice and change my perspective as soon as I can when I encounter it.
This is so cool to hear @mmyogabeach2. Thank you btw! I love that you notice the flip in nervous system when you focus on breaths... it really is a powerful tool. Plus the NSAIDs like Advil are always nice. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I'm looking forward to hearing any insight you get!
I'm not sure if this counts because I'm using a physical activity to help change the mindset, but I discovered yesterday that this 5 minute shoulder activation routine from a shoulder rehab program I got (called Crossover Symmetry) actually got my neck and head pain to stop. My scapula always want to start inching up and forward, especially if I spend a long time at the computer or am having anxiety, and when I use this "workout" the scapular stabilizing muscles suddenly remember how to do their jobs and stop the intense pain of pinching something between the humerus and the scapula. (my surgeon and PT still aren't sure what it is that's getting pinched)
I say "workout" because it's a series of short exercises with pairs of resistance cords, but the resistance and reps in this particular set are meant to be easy for you, not actively build muscle. I feel a lot less pain and a lot more capable/athletic right after I do it, because it fixes my posture immediately. Then the anxiety eases and the neck pain stops. This works far more reliably and quickly for me than all the stretching and massage I've been trying to do for my neck and shoulders.
Do you gain calmness from knowing you're empowered? In some situations I think I do. Sometimes the answer to my anxiety is "the situation is not so bad/hard" and then at other times it's "yes it is really tough and I can do this anyway!"