The Health of Injured Workers

The hardest part of recovering from an injury is changing the habits of years to help your recovery. 

So much goes on when you find out that you are injured and that you wont recover unless you take some personal action to achieve it.

The loss of social relations, the loss of mobility, the limited amount of things you can do and the fear of never getting back to where you were before the injury are just a few of the major issues an injured worker will face.

The biggest hurdle is of course realising that you can play an active part in your recovery and that this activity is not going to be easy. It’s unlikely you will be able to hit the track or the gym the way you used to (if we ever did) and we have our own way of dealing with disappointment thank you very much.

This may involve changing your previous habits, those based on your life without an injury. Smoking (says the kettle calling the pot black) is one of those habits that you really should take seriously in stopping, the health benefits of doing it are well known but are intensified if you are recovering from an injury. In saying that, if you have a psychological injury please do this with your doctor and professionals.

Alcohol consumption is another one of those habits which need to be re-examined if you are recovering from an injury, and unlike smoking, the benefits of cutting down are significant if you have a psychological injury.

There are of course more habits we have that while we are recovering from an injury we need to revisit and change. This isn’t easy to do but getting over that point is the first task of taking control of your recovery and or adaption to an injury.

An important part of this is having a plan. The Workers Compensation System does this badly but it is a great idea to ask your doctor to create an injury management plan which includes a general plan for keeping track of your injury and the professional help you will need to recover from that injury, this includes medication needed, tests and specialist assessments, allied health appointments (such as a psychologist or a physiotherapist) simple exercises and diets.

This is where your own initiative is needed. Following a plan is difficult but it does allow you to refer (and your insurance clerk) to a professionally developed program which, if implemented properly, will aid your recovery and give you some clarity on what you should expect in the coming weeks or longer. There can be no guarantees of course but it is a great start.

The second is to look to your previous behaviour and coping methods. Then think of strategies to either enhance them (if they are going to help you recover such as spending time with your children and friends) or mitigate them if they are going to slow your recovery.

Diet, exercise and social contact are the three pillars to a healthy recovery no matter what type of injury you may be living with.

Diet helps our bodies make those essential chemicals that activate our brains and muscles which increase our bodies ability to recover, this is true of both a physical or psychological injury. We need to develop a diet with knowledge though, so a talk to a dietician, doctor or sports physiologist can assist in creating the best diet for your injury type. Diet also helps prevent some of the side effects of having an injury. Loss of movement means loss of opportunity to burn off the fat we may accumulate because of that lack of movement. A healthy diet can also increase our brain function that could limit the need for psychological medication (but never fully) and increase our feeling of energy and commitment to movement.

Exercise is a brilliant way of managing an injury, in particular a psychological injury. counter intuitively exercise also increases the chemicals we seek by eating the food that helps us feel full. These endorphins for example help us feel better, but unlike fatty and sugary food, exercise keeps these chemicals in  our brains longer and the  food to combat the crash or downer we feel when those sugars and fats have passed through our system.

Exercise has to be done with great consideration to the type of injury you have so have a chat to your doctor, specialist, physiotherapist etc.. so that you don’t over do it and possibly do more harm than good.

Finally social contact. Allowing people into your life again is extremely important, creating new relationships and maintaining old ones will help you with the way you are feeling and has a significantly positive impact on achieving the life you had before. You also don’t need to see a professional to do this one right, but as with the other two, seeing a professional can help you feel motivated and plan out how to do it in a positive way.

Taking control of your diet, exercise and social contact does one more thing that is important. It empowers you in a system which prides itself on disempowering you. They are yours to control and the more you do it the more control and power you will have.

Out of all of this one thing is true. It is unlikely you will be the same person as you were before, we never “get over it” we incorporate it, we become something more than we were before, even if the injury means we will continue to live with a diminished physical or psychological capacity. As hard as it seems, we do create a new normal- whether we take control of our recovery or not. The choice is what that new normal looks like. The more power you exert in your recovery through diet, exercise and social contact, the better your new normal will be.