Mindfulness for Injuries

Written by Tele Demetrious, Physiotherapist, BPhysio(Hons)
Reviewed by Brett Harrop, APA Sports Physiotherapist, BPhysio(Hons), MPhysio(Sports Physio)

Health > Mindfulness > Mindfulness for Injuries

Our Mindfulness Series

Mindfulness for Injuries‘ is the third article in our progressive mindful series, designed to introduce and deepen your Mindfulness practise. If you are uninjured, you may be able to relate this article to:

  • A time when you have been injured
  • People you know who have an injury
  • Other undesirable situations in your life (such as any illness you may have).

Alternatively, feel free to skip to the next article in our series – ‘Becoming more Mindful‘.  

Generally, we recommend reading our series systematically, beginning with our first article – ‘What is Mindfulness‘. 

How Mindfulness can Help Your Injury - Mindfulness of a dandelion

A Mindful Approach to Help Your Injury

When we are injured, the most normal thing in the world is to not want to be injured. Yet here we are, it’s happened, we have an injury and it’s now an inevitable part of ‘what is’ in the present moment.

When we approach our injury mindfully, with our attention in the now and an attitude of acceptance and openness to whatever the current moment entails, we may notice various symptoms directly such as:

  • A sharp sensation
  • A dull ache
  • Muscle tightness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Pins and needles or numbness
  • Loss of movement or function.

A mindful approach eliminates our reactivity to, and judgement of, these symptoms. It allows these symptoms to be held in awareness, without resisting or recoiling from them. It avoids creating unnecessary suffering and unhappiness about your injury, via our repetitive, negative thoughts (which serve no useful purpose). 

‘Default Mode’ – Adversely affects Your Injury

If we forget to be mindful and subsequently enter ‘Default Mode’, entailing being lost in repetitive, unproductive thought about our injury, we may think:

  • This injury is so frustrating
  • I don’t have time for this
  • I don’t want to stop my sport or recreational activity
  • I’m completely fed up with this
  • What if this gets worse and I can’t work
  • This shouldn’t have happened
  • My injury is ‘Killing Me’
  • I’m so sick of this
  • It feels like a knife in there
  • This should be better by now

These common thoughts, essentially create further ‘unhappiness’ about our injury in addition to the more direct physical symptoms.

The more unhappy thoughts or mental resistance we have toward our injury, the more we suffer.  This may create further muscle tension (as we internally fight ‘what is’) and central nervous system sensitivity increasing our symptom severity and perception. The internal resistance to what is also doesn’t change the injury, in fact it serves no useful purpose beyond making you feel more miserable.

Acceptance of ‘What is’

Conversely, if we bring our attention into the present moment and completely accept that we have an injury and any associated symptoms, we then reduce our experience of our injury down to the basic sensations of – sharp or dull, intense or mild, weakness, ache, stiffness etc.

This creates a ‘mental spaciousness’ around our injury allowing us to feel at peace despite our physical symptoms. It also allows us to listen to our body more clearly and respond more appropriately to its needs (without excessive mental chatter obscuring our perception).

Bringing acceptance into our injury doesn’t mean that we resign ourselves to having an injury, or, adopt an attitude of hopelessness.  It means we fully accept the “is-ness” of our condition, clearly see what is required and then take effective action to improve our injury.

This accepting, surrendered and mindful attitude is free of unnecessary negativity created by the mind and significantly more effective than the usual ‘default mode’.

Mindfulness for Injuries – Key Points

In short, a mindful approach to our injury, allows us to be completely accepting of the unacceptable (i.e. our injury and our life situation) without reservation. This may:

  • calm our nervous system
  • reduce muscle tension
  • eliminate unnecessary suffering & unhappiness
  • improve our ability to listen to our body and respond appropriately to hasten healing
  • clearly see what is actually happening (such as any unhelpful behaviours) and respond appropriately
  • take effective action (without ruminating thoughts which might distract you from doing so)
  • activate our relaxation response which has been known to:
    1. enhance our brain’s responsiveness to endorphins (our body’s natural pain killers which are approximately 100 times stronger than morphine)
    2. have an anti-inflammatory effect
    3. reduce muscle spasm
    4. desensitise the pain pathways in the brain
    5. enhance mood and coping whilst reducing emotional reactivity

Learn More About Mindfulness

Our mindfulness articles have been written as a progressive series to help teach and deepen your understanding and practise of Mindfulness.

View the next article in our series:

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