• Injured ribs and back – Part II the healing process and two modalities that had positive impact

    In my last post I explained how I managed to smash myself into the frame of the closet door. In this post I will explain what I did to manage my healing process through four weeks out from the injury.

    1. To ice or not ice? Some experts recommend icing the affected area the first 48 to 72 after the injury. Others say ice doesn’t help healing and may hinder it. You can do your own digging or listen to your trusted medical expert. That written, I chose to ice for about 20 minutes three times per day for the first three days mostly because it made the area feel better. Did it slow the healing process? Who knows for sure.
    2. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, herbal concoctions or nothing? I am normally not a fan of pain relievers because I want pain to guide my recovery process. That is, I don’t do movements that hurt. The problem was, many normal, seemingly small movements hurt early on. More important, I was not able to get good quality sleep due to the pain of rolling over in bed.

    Taking pain relievers is another issue that triggers conflicting advice. Do your homework or listen to your medical expert before you decide what to do.

    I decided to take ibuprofen on a regular schedule for the first three days so I could get decent rest at night and move about without pain. After three days of this, I decided to stop taking ibuprofen. The first day I had some pain during the day, but it was manageable. However, the pain that first night was not manageable and not conducive to good quality rest at all. I know that quality sleep is critical during the healing process.

    On day five, I switched to acetaminophen at night only. I did this so I could be aware of what movements caused pain while I was most active during the day. After day 16, I took no pain relievers.

    1. It’s okay to do things that are uncomfortable – but not painful. When healing an injury, most experts agree you need to keep moving. The first week or so, the only things I could do that didn’t cause pain was walking and riding an indoor trainer. I did experience pain getting my leg swung over my indoor trainer, but once on the bike I had no pain at all.

    On day 19 I headed to the pool. Because I was experiencing some attention-grabbing pain in my rib and back area for certain movements, I decided to begin in the warm, zero-depth pool. My goal was to make it 30 minutes.

    Mid-way through the pull portion of the stroke, it was not painful, but not comfortable either. At about 25 minutes I noticed the pain was increasing, so I stopped the swim session.

    1. Have bailout options for workouts. For the first few weeks, I only did workouts where I could conveniently stop at any time. If I experienced any pain or growing discomfort, I ended the workout. While I believe doing workouts helps increase blood flow and aid in recovery, doing too much too soon can cause a delay in the healing process. I wanted the fastest path possible, so I planned bailout options for all workouts.
    2. Recipe for a 5-minute cake. An injury to the ribs takes some four to six weeks to heal. Trying to heal bruised or cracked bone in a week is like trying to bake a cake in 5 minutes – the product you want is ruined and you have to begin again. 

    I read a few blog posts from people that claimed they were healed in a week by doing x, y, z – don’t buy it. You cannot bake a cake in 5 minutes and you cannot heal bone in a week. Maybe some technology in the future will allow it, but not now.

    1. Acupuncture. The last time I had a rib injury was after a mountain bike crash. I landed on my hydration pack and the injury was primarily rib-related. I utilized acupuncture along with a few other modalities for that crash.

    For this incident, I had my first acupuncture treatment eight days after the closet crash. The day after treatment I had some noticeable pain relief in my back. Due to the holiday schedule and my practitioner getting COVID, I didn’t receive another treatment until 21 days after the crash. Within 24 hours of this treatment, there was noticeably less pain in my back and ribs.

    1. Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT). About 15 years ago, I fell backwards while Nordic skiing and landed on my Blackberry phone that was in my back pocket. Some two or three weeks after the injury I visited a sports medicine physician because I was experiencing pain in my butt with certain movements. Some of the movements didn’t seem related to the actual injury. When I visited the doc and told him of my Buttberry injury (my name for it), he did a simple movement evaluation on me and told me I had muscles that were not firing. He gave me some very simple TheraBand exercises to do for two or three weeks. They were corrective isometric exercises designed to activate certain muscles that were not firing. I was really surprised that after only a couple of days of these exercises, I saw significant improvement in my pain.

    Isometric exercise is one of two typical Muscle Activation Techniques. The best explanation I’ve found for MAT is found at this link.  

    A week or so after my closet crash, local MAT specialist Sherri Goering reached out and reminded me that she is certified in MAT manual therapy and she could, perhaps, help me with the healing process. She was significant help and I will explain what this process feels like in the next post, since this one is getting long.

    Colorado folks might be aware of MAT from the Sports Illustrated column on Peyton Manning. He relied on Denver-based Greg Roskoph’s MAT to help him recover from neck surgery and go on to play in two Superbowls with the Denver Broncos.  

    In the next blog, I’ll provide a description of how I was feeling before the first MAT treatment, what it feels like to have manual MAT and what activities I could do without pain after the therapy.



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