The return to play or your activity should not be based on the absence of pain, but the presence and return of function and full range of motion. Something as innocent as suffering from a slight ankle injury that was “ignored” or wasn’t properly taken care of could likely result in more devastating or debilitating ailments several months to years down the road. Unknowingly, most of our population thinks if there is no pain, then the area is fixed. When in actuality, if there is restoration of optimal function and range of motion to that area, then it is fixed.
Let’s take a closer look at what I mean: If we sprain our ankle. What happens? It swells, it hurts, it is stiff, some time we can’t walk on it. But then after days or weeks, the swelling decreases, we get some mobility back, and that pain is gone! Looking at our anatomy in conjunction with human kinetics, if our ankle does not have the proper functional mobility, then the forces placed into our bodies when we run, jump, sprint, side-step, will start to hammer away at other areas of our body. So to our weekend warriors and avid athletes when we finally have no pain from that injured ankle, we go back full fledge to our beloved activities! More times than not, we are lucky enough to not feel any “aftermaths” from that ankle injury, so we play and play and play…and play. Until, let’s say, several months or even a year or two later, our weekend warrior starts to develop low back pain, without even “doing anything to it”! Lack of ankle mobility causes our glutes to not activate properly, resulting in instability of our pelvis and low back. Unstable areas causes surrounding muscles to spasm erroneously resulting in shifts in our structural alignment, therefore causing pain that appeared “out of nowhere”. So guess what happens next? That weekend warrior will probably start to develop the mentality of “my body is falling apart….” or “I’m just getting old…”.
Yes, we all age and maintaining a certain level of physical execution can become more challenging, BUT with that said we are starting to see more professional athletes play into their late 30’s or even into their 40’s (ie: Tom Brady isn’t still playing football just because of his dashing good looks). Why is that? It is because some athletes have understood that that pain isn’t our indicator for optimal performance. Their surrounding trainers, doctors, and other health care professionals approach their training and rehab more functionally related based vs. pain related.
So try and not let pain fool you into thinking you are at 100% recovered. We all love to participate in sports or activities, so seeking a professional who is well educated and certified in functional training and restoration will not only benefit your health, but provide you with the tools to keep you out there on that field, court, trail, track, and whatever you call your own playground!
Dr. Stephanie Smith is a licensed sports chiropractic physician in the greater area of Atlanta. Originally from New York, Dr. Smith, found her love for sports while extensively participating in many activities, to find herself earning an athletic scholarship to Penn State where she participated with the Women's PSU soccer team. That, then took her further to play professionally in Vancouver, Canada in which there she became highly interested in improvement in sports performance and athletic durability. Her desire to continue playing at a high level earned her the opportunity to attend Life University in Marietta, GA where she earned her Doctorate degree in Chiropractic and also her Master's degree in sports medicine. Her drive and continued determination to help those seeking improved physical and health goals is her motivation behind creating this website and program called SportsFXN!