Lindy had total hip replacement on October 23 of this year. She was skiing seven weeks later. She wrote two posts on how she used Pilates and mindful movement to prepare her for surgery. In her last two posts (including this one) Lindy reflects on how Pilates is expediting her post-surgery rehab.
It’s one of the most powerful words in the English language. Before man walked on the moon, it was imagined in the minds of the people who made it happen. Before the Internet existed, it was pictured in the minds of those who brought it into reality. Before the Wright Brothers flew in the sky, they imagined flight as possible.
Early in post-surgical recovery, imagination can be your strongest ally, or it can wear you down, poking holes in your resolve to do what it takes to come back better than ever.
Immediately following injury or surgery, there is naturally a certain amount of discomfort. This discomfort can stimulate cortisol, creating stress, which limits healing and also limits our ability to think rationally.
With the use of appropriate imagery and mindful movement practices, we can create an environment that facilitates healing, recovery and return to function.
In the initial post-surgical or post-injury phase, the goals are to decrease swelling, improve range of motion, and to become independent with weight bearing, transfers and self-care as soon as possible, all while protecting the injury or surgical site. Mindful movement practices can enhance our ability to achieve these goals with ease.
After my hip replacement last October, I was seen in the hospital by Physical and Occupational Therapists. My tasks were to
1) Get out of bed on my own
2) Stand and walk about 40 feet with a walker
3) Walk up and down five steps
4) Sit and stand on a stool that was positioned to mimic getting in and out of a car
These were caring and trained professionals, and I know they had my best interests at heart, but there was no attention to how I was preparing my mind and emotions to perform these tasks.
What’s missing from this approach are some key elements—specifically how we think and feel about our bodies and how we move them. Our imagination can be a profound tool when it comes to this important integration of body-mind-emotions.
That first afternoon, when my hip was just a few hours old, I was able to use my Pilates and mindful movement training to prepare for and achieve the tasks listed above. It wasn’t that I “ignored” my discomfort—I simply accepted it as a natural part of the process and prepared.
How? By breathing deeply and consciously, my discomfort and anxiousness diminished—when we are operating from fear, our choices are limited to fight, flight, or freeze. By imagining the appropriate joint mechanics of my new hip before I got out of bed, I began to create a map for my nervous system to follow. By seeing myself successfully doing the tasks ahead of time, I developed confidence, and attaining the goals became inevitable.
And by continuing these practices throughout the rehab process, I was able to return to skiing at 7 weeks post-op. A pretty good use of imagination and mindful movement practices I’d say!