By: Keith Scott
Use self-evaluation to create a valuable problem list and get the help you need!!
If you are moving any kind of weight on a consistent basis, or doing any kind of regular workout, chances are you will suffer some kind of setback. Setbacks occur for many reasons, however in my experience, enduring an injury throughout those critical training times may be the worse type of setback there is. Injuries throw you off of your game and your training program. We all know that the best strategy is always the preventative one, which is not to get injured in the first place. However, no matter how safe we are, how balanced we may be, sometimes injury happens!
Chances are that everyone reading this has been injured in some way during their playing/training career. Some of you may have suffered multiple injuries throughout your training and playing career and some just had the one big injury that may or may not still haunt them. Some of us are fortunate enough to have professionals available to help us get the care we need. This care always starts and finishes with a good assessment of the problem. From there, we can choose the right plan of action to help us get better and back to our original form. So what about those of you that don’t have immediate access to these key people and cannot get looked at in a timely manner? What can you do then? Many are left to figure out the injury on their own and hope they can find a way to get better. While there is no doubt that several of you reading this may be more than qualified to figure out the pathology and treatments of such injuries yourselves, some of you have no clue what you are doing, and guessing would make a bad matter much worse.
For those that fall into the latter category or even for those that may think they are qualified to figure out this mess when it happens, I am offering a strategy to help you narrow down your actual problem. Recognizing the signs and symptoms that are presented will help you ultimately self identify your own problem. This will give you a head start and at the very least, once you have this valuable information, you can better use it to seek out the right kind of help whether that is by talking to a knowledgeable friend, or even an internet forum.
Whenever you suffer and injury or have some kind of orthopedic problem, use the following guidelines, and make sure you write everything down as you go along to help you remember and be able to convey that information to someone that may be able to help.
**PLEASE NOTE: If performing ANY of these assessments causes much more obvious pain or discomfort, or you feel in anyway that you cannot even attempt to do any of this, please go see a doctor immediately. Your problem is beyond this kind of help and there is no need to hurt yourself more.
1. Talk to yourself !! – Have an honest conversation with yourself about your problem. Make sure you ask the following questions and get honest answers to everyone of them:
- 1. HOW – How did this problem occur? What were you doing when you first noticed it? Did it occur suddenly or has it been bothering you over time and now is getting worse.
- 2. WHEN – When did this problem occur? When was the first time that you noticed the problem or injury?
- 3. WHAT – What kind of injury is it, to the best if your knowledge? Is it a bruise, or was it more of a strain/sprain? Does it hurt or does it feel really tight……..or both?
- 4. PAIN – What kind of pain do you feel? Is it a sharp pain, throbbing pain, burning pain, or aching type of pain? When does it hurt the most? Where does it hurt the most? If you had to narrow down the pain to one small area, where would it be? What activities hurt it the most? Is there anything you do that makes the pain go away, and if so what? On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst pain you could ever imagine, what number on the scale would you say your pain is?
- 5. HISTORY – Have you ever injured this area or had a similar problem? If so when and what happened? Did you have any surgeries to the same general area as the problem? Is there a family history of this injury or problem and if so who and what? Have you ever been seen by a doctor about this problem in the past?
2. Look at yourself!!– Find a mirror that you can look into to actually see yourself in action. Observe how you hold the effected side, how you walk or any other movements that are related to the problem. Look for any asymmetries, or anything out of the ordinary. Some other things to look for:
- 1. Swelling around the area
- 2. Redness
- 3. Obvious Deformities
- 4. Lack of function
- 5. Guarding
If you cannot find a mirror or your problem cannot be fully appreciated by self observation, have a friend watch you move, or better yet have the video tape you moving to watch for irregularities. Many times you might have to perform the actual range of motion that causes the problem or the pain to gain valuable information. If it is the upper extremity, watch how your shoulders move in relation to one another. If you have a knee problem, observe how each knee moves. Document everything you see.
3. Touch yourself!! (No, Not like that! ) Don’t be afraid to poke around gently in the area to gain some valuable information. Feel for bumps, deformities or swelling. Press gently so feel where it hurts the most. If your problem is some where that you cannot feel yourself, again have a friend feel around gently. (Just make sure it is someone you trust). Again, document everything, and remember to jot down any kind of pain that you may feel while feeling around.
4. Test yourself!! – (Nope, you don’t have to study for these tests). Perform the following tests:
- 1. Range of motion- First test the “good” uninjured side and note how far you can move it. Move up and down, in and out, all different directions. Now test the injured side. Compare the two. Note any limitations and don’t forget to note if it hurts moving in any of those directions.
2. Strength – Again, begin with the non-injured side and see how strong it is and then compare to the other side. General tests that you can do are things like isometric holds, or basic muscle contractions against resistance. Just get a general comparison to see if the injured side is weaker. Take special care to note if the weakness is caused by pain.
3. Daily Function – Can you do normal things with the effected body part? Brush your teeth, get dressed, shower, walk up and down stairs, etc. Can you function as you did before the injury? Test yourself to find out. Document everything you can and cannot do that is a normal daily function.
A Great Start
So now what? You have all of this information and you still have no clue what is wrong with you and still don’t feel any better. Relax; you are way ahead of the game. Once you complete this self assessment you have enough to work with. Having a comprehensive list like this completed, you can now be confident in your ability to share the correct and thorough information with your Doctor, Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Performance Coach, and even your mother!!
Whoever that person might be, you now have a great start to figuring out what is wrong with you. Lists like these especially come in handy on internet message boards/forums, where I know a lot of people go for advice. I can’t count the times when someone has posted a message about an injury and had to go back and forth for days answering questions because there was not enough valuable information given at the time of the posted question. There are so many people out there seeking advice to their problems and injuries, but come up short finding a good answer because they cannot share the information in an adequate manner. Several qualified people out there exist on these boards that can and will help but sometimes cannot without having the right information. A detailed list like this can go a long way in helping those pro’s out there help you.
Having a list like this will not guarantee a correct diagnosis, but there is not doubt that it can and will point you in a better direction for getting your problem solved. I know personally that in dealing with sports injuries for many years, information is the key to solving these injury mysteries. Get your list, get some help and get yourself better!!
Remember, this does not mean that you should not go see a qualified professional for this matter, quite the contrary. This self-assessment will give you a head start to getting yourself better. Of course you should ALWAYS follow up with your doctor.
Keith is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) through the National Athletic Trainer’s Association ( www.nata.org ) and also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association ( www.nsca-lift.org). He has recently received his certification as a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) through the National Academy of Sports Medicine ( www.nasm.org ).