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Lessons from the Fall



Pardon the grandiose title.

And pardon me for being a little self-indulgent over the next few weeks.

But some things must be learned the hard way. Or at least relearned the hard way. So indeed, my right foot did sustain a compression fracture in the talus bone. That alone has helped to account for the pain and dysfunction over the last four weeks and counting.

The talus is a bone between your heal bone and the long bone of your lower leg known as the tibia. This is the bone that lets your ankle move in a bewildering variety of planes. A compression fracture is when the outside layer of bone, the cortical part, gets smashed into the patch work bone known as trabeculae. This leaves a big dent, if you will, in the bone. In addition, several ligaments were damaged. Ligaments keep a joint from moving too far; and a healthy joint is one that has balance between mobility and stability. Too much of one or the other and problems arise. Ligaments also have the special quality of a high nerve supply which makes them extremely pain sensitive, and a poor blood supply which makes them heal slowly. Nice combo!

So, what did I learn the hard way?

I learned and/or relearned that there is no way to speed healing, and to attempt to do so can slow the process. So first of all, healing is a process. Whether from injuries, from accidents, from chronic overuse, or emotional, psychological, or spiritual issues, every healing event is a process. Every healing event takes time.

How much time?

It takes as long as it takes.

While this answer is very unsatisfactory, it is still true. It is true when you come to our office from a car accident, or working on a computer too long and too often, or not listening to your body, or saying yes too often, or failing to spend time alone, a healing process needs to take place and it needs time to make that process work.

Couple the time element with the equally true statement that our bodies are self-healing. Yes, we must aid our bodies in this process, with things like rest, exercise, nutrition and connection with others, but we are still at the mercy of our body doing the work. No one can heal you. Your body must do the work. Let it work!

And so, what can you do to aid in this process?

Admit that you are injured. Admit that healing takes time. And come to terms with the fact that life will be different in the short-term. And do not let the roots of some negative thought patterns like, “maybe I’m just getting old” or “this is some sort of new normal”, take hold.

Resist all this. Embrace that your body can and will heal.

Focus on what you can do, not what you have lost.

Most of the year when I am engaged in physical activity, hiking, biking, swimming, lifting weights, whatever, I have it in the back of my head that ski season is coming and that I can never be too prepared. Well guess who just lost four weeks, and counting, of the ski season? But really this has not been my focus. My focus has really been about getting back to work, being productive, being a good husband and father. These things are challenging enough when I’m 100%, but when in pain, putting energy into that stuff is exhausting. Most of you know this. The tendency is to withdraw and become self-focused. Not a healthy way to live!

So, I have been doing my level best to focus on what I can do. Not always successfully. During the first week of my injury, Mrs. Swaim got me some crutches. I walked across the Lake Lowell dam one windy day and it took me 68 minutes to limp a mile. I have also begun a hit and miss yoga routine. All that sitting around was making me stiff and cranky. I have learned the joy of sleeping in! The extra sleep is really great for healing. And I am learning to accept that healing takes time. Great lesson indeed.

Be patient folks. Be honest with yourself too.

Your body will work and heal better for it.



6 Join the Conversation

  1. JudyLynn says
    Jan 18, 2019 at 3:25 PM

    I absolutely love and claim this advice... Admit that you are injured. Admit that healing takes time. And come to terms with the fact that life will be different in the short-term. And do not let the roots of some negative thought patterns like, “maybe I'm just getting old” or “this is some sort of new normal”, take hold. Resist all this. Embrace that your body can and will heal. Focus on what you can do, not what you have lost. Thank you!

    • says
      Jan 18, 2019 at 11:37 AM

      Thank you, Judylynn! We all see you living this way, you are a wonderful example of how to do this!

  2. Sheila Iverson says
    Jan 18, 2019 at 8:57 PM Sleep heals a lot!!!

    • says
      Jan 19, 2019 at 4:58 PM

      Yes it is Sheila! Sleep well.

  3. Chad says
    Jan 21, 2019 at 6:36 AM

    Hey Doc, Thank for the 411 on your injury and the healing process. I know now it's going to be months until I recover from the head on collision that happend to me. Now I won't be in such a hurry to rush my recovery and I will lose weight by working out again. Your the Best in the business Dr. Swain! God bless, Cap

    • says
      Jan 21, 2019 at 11:35 AM

      Glad you read this post, healing truly is a process! Thank you for your kind words and we are looking forward to seeing you thrive again. Better days are ahead Mr. Palmer!

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