My Chilifest 2020 injury & how staying present helped avoid long term pain

The Colella family at ChiliFest 2020

I absolutely love all of the festivities Oconomowoc has to offer, and pre-pandemic, I went to ALL of them.

At the time of ChiliFest 2020, the little one was 5 months old, and I had him in the Ergo carrier. As we were walking of the ice, I fell. Normally, I have great body control, and know how to fall well, people who practice martial arts know what I’m talking about. However, we, as mothers, have this pesky instinct to not let our children get injured, so I leaned back a smidge, but landed right on my knee. It. Frickin’. Hurt!

I often say that I’m so grateful I do what I do and know what I know because it has gotten me out of a ton of jams. Here’s an example that has less to do with the nuts & bolts mechanics of the body, but more about mindset & framing the situation.

Lets break the events down in 2 different ways:

What Actually Happened

-I fell on me knee. It hurt a lot.

-My supportive husband calmly asked if I was okay. I told him to just give me a minute.

-An onlooker from the boardwalk asked if I was okay. I waved her off.

-I assessed the situation: baby The baby was not crying. The way my leg looked was not contorted or bloody- yay.

-I took a “graded exposure” approach. Can I squeeze my thigh muscle? With some pain, but yes, intact. Can I bend my knee? A little.

-I ask for help getting up (though I pretty much did a full pistol squat on the opposite side, because I rock).

-I put 10% weight on my right side, shift away, gradually shift more and more until I can put full weight on it. Okay, ready to walk.

-I continue to apply that graded exposure technique and I create benchmarks (ok, this part is a little more mechanical PT), and don’t go back to workouts, until I can do some light hopping & partial range single leg squat without pain, which too about a week.

What could have happened

-I fell on my knee. It hurt a lot.

-The baby starts crying.

-My husband, whom I was fighting with a little earlier, just comes over & tries to pull me up.

-I’m not ready yet. I fall back down.

-The onlooker asks if she can call an ambulance. I don’t know what to make of the situation, so I agree.

-I get x-rays, muscle relaxors and am placed in a long leg brace that prevents movement. The x-rays come back negative for fracture, but state I have some mild arthritis.

-The whole process takes a lot of time, money, and mental energy.

-It’s hard to work, and get around the house. My husband starts to do the laundry, and is generally nicer to me…I could milk this out a little more than maybe I need to.

-Time for my PT appointment, I’m just scared to move it & don’t trust it yet…must be that pesky arthritis.

Let’s take another example. My daughter falls off the monkey bars. Dad, who does not have as much of the keeping-children-alive instinct, is of course, less concerned.

Being in the present: I rush over to comfort her & assess the situation.

Catastrophizing: I immediately know she broke her arm. In the 10 steps to get there, I’m already visualizing her in a cast.

There’s a lot of talk about “being in the present,” but I rarely see it applied to injury. I hope this helps you apply mindfulness to real life situations. I also hope you realize that the specific exercises, or other treatment you get in physical therapy, is a small part of the equation, and the person, the physical therapist has the potential to help you feel at ease and back into a healing mindset. At OPT, you’re always treated as a whole person.