Although this illness means I am no longer capable of taking part in the pursuits that used to increase my risk of injury (skiing, snowboarding, hiking on rough ground etc.) I found out this week that I’m not altogether immune. A simple slip on a friend’s stairs resulted in a twisted ankle and a bump to my spine. These relatively minor injuries however have had a much bigger impact on my ME/CFS symptoms.
Injury is just like any other pressure on normal healthy functioning, the body needs to direct its resources towards healing and leaves less to go around. When our resources are so hard pushed anyway, even a minor injury can easily lead to a crash. To minimise the risk of an injury induced crash we must respond with rest. Often the injury will force us to rest anyway, but as an ME/CFS sufferer we will need more rest than a healthy person who suffers a similar injury. Our bodies will prioritise the injury, even if we would rather it prioritise keeping our energy levels healthy. So we have to be cunning, accept that we’re going to have less resources than normal and make sure we don’t reach that newly restricted limit.
Spoon theory is helpful here. Let’s say that on an average day I have about 15 spoons worth of energy. I’ll probably plan to spend about 12 of them on my daily activities to make sure I have some left for unforeseen circumstances, sleeping and healing. My body will then use a couple of those at least if I have an injury, so if don’t adjust my activity level I could easily find myself demanding more energy than I have. When we try to use more energy than we have, our mitochondria can’t keep up, essential molecules are lost instead of recycled and we crash until we manage to rebuild them.
We also need to make sure we stay hydrated. Swelling around injuries can take fluid away from other places we might need it. Being less mobile will make our lymphatic system less efficient and pain killers can increase the load on our detox systems. Drinking plenty can help minimise the impact of these extra complications.
An injured body will also often require more sleep. If you have a sleep hygiene program because of sleep disturbance it might be a good idea to allow yourself to sleep longer when you’re injured, if your body seems to be demanding it. When I was a ski instructor, the occasional injury was an occupational hazard. At these times I would often find myself sleeping for 12 hours even though I would never be able to sleep that long normally. If a healthy body needs that much extra sleep when injured think about what our bodies night need!
My injuries seemed to heal quite quickly this week. I only needed pain killers for a couple of days, but my energy levels took a lot longer to get back up to baseline. Even though I responded with a lot of rest it still seemed like there wasn’t enough energy left for anything else.
Take care with any injury, even a minor one. Make sure you stay restful for several days after you think your injury is no longer needing your energy! Give your energy reserves a chance to fill back up.
Most of all though, I hope that you all manage to stay injury free!