• Matt T

Oops, I did it again: The pain and frustration of recurrent injuries

I’ve been injury-prone since I was little. What started out as bumps and bruises needing just a plaster and a bit of love from my mum turned into ankle sprains in my teens. As my body has got older, that’s now turned into regular fractures (yay!)

These frequent injuries have taken their toll on me after damaging some ligaments in my ankles; they’re now so unstable that I have to wear special ankle boots all the time. I can’t run or walk on uneven ground without risking another injury, and recently I put that to the test.

A few weeks ago I decided to remove said ankle boots for a walk so I could walk on the grass barefoot. “Why not? It’s summer time,” I thought. Just when you want to rebel against dyspraxia, you usually get a quick reminder shortly afterwards.

What my husband would describe as “probably not your wisest move Ems”, and what I would probably describe in some stronger and more colourful language, resulted in me now having an ankle sprain. Again.

It was a great 10 minutes though (I keep telling myself that).

Dyspraxia 1 Emma 0.

I reckon I injure myself to the point where I affect my mobility for six months of the year. There don’t seem to be any services available for people like me. Fall clinics are for elderly people and most medical staff I’ve encountered don’t know much about dyspraxia.

When I’m feeling particularly frustrated or annoyed, it feels like I’m being left to watch my own mobility gradually reduce. But that’s another topic for another day.

When you injure yourself a lot, or maybe because you have dyspraxia like me or for any other reason, there are some things I’ve learned which can really help the recovery period.

Having your own kit

Expect the unexpected. Injuries happen when you don’t plan for them, and you need to access stuff to deal with them quickly and easily.

Here’s a handy list of things I have in my own kit:

  • Painkillers

  • Dressings

  • Tape

  • Arnica gel (it makes me feel better even if it isn’t evidence based)

  • Ankle supports

  • Plastic shower protection sleeves (for plastercast)

  • Physiotherapy equipment.

Some advice for temporary mobility difficulties

Crutches are painful on the hands. The best thing I’ve found is to take thick foam around the handles to provide some cushioning.

If it’s your first time on crutches (or it’s been awhile) do not leave the hospital until someone explains how to use the crutches properly, how to use stairs and how to have a shower. Never be afraid to ask!

You have no free hands when you’re on crutches. I have a small bag to put my phone and other essentials in I need around the house, as well as a flask with a great seal on it so I can put it in my bag (because standing on one leg by the kettle isn’t always the nicest way to drink a cup of tea).

Clear walkways! Items on the floor are a whole new level of danger now.

Go out as much as you can. You can hire wheelchairs if you need them, which is really helpful if you are going out for longer, and they’re mobile so you can take them in cars etc. A lot of shopping centres and cities have ‘shopmobility’ where you can hire a wheelchair for the day.

Down in Devon, we even have sand wheelchairs you can hire so you can go for a stroll on the beach (pro tip: try not to get sand in your plaster cast, there is no way of getting it out again until the thing comes off, believe me it’s not fun!)

Keeping your mood up

One of the most frustrating things about being injured is losing your independence out of nowhere. This can’t be underestimated, and has been the cause of much wailing on the bathroom floor in my household when I need someone to help me with the most basic of tasks.

It’s very hard not to get fed up when you have lots of other stuff in life to be busy with (and particularly if you know the injury is likely to happen again). It knocks your confidence in your body and mobility.

Planning is everything. Plan how to carry on some of the things you usually do around injuries. I managed to even do horse riding with some minor adaptations after my latest relatively milder ankle sprain. This may seem small in the grand scheme of things but it’s massively important. Sometimes my husband is able to become my own personal taxi, or I keep a small amount of emergency taxi money. This helps me feeling less trapped and having an injury doesn’t feel like such a disaster each time, because I can still carry on with some of my daily routine and everyday tasks.

Ask for help. People are usually more than happy to help, but they can’t tell if they don’t know you are struggling or need it. Spell it out to them, tell them exactly what you need help with. Whether it’s getting shopping,

preparing a meal, giving the house a hoover. You are out of necessity stuck at home more, and if you are surrounded by jobs that need doing but you can’t carry out, it makes you feel even worse.

Your trips out will need a lot more planning and organising to take into account your limitations. This adds an extra layer of difficulty, particularly if you find it tricky anyway. Suddenly moving around requires a lot more focus, which leaves less brain space for other things. Be gentle on yourself because it takes a lot more out of you than it usually does, treat yourself kindly and rest as much as you need to.

And lastly, if a medical professional tells you to keep your ankle boots on outside, listen to them and don’t go running through the grass barefoot. Oops.

Dr Emma Tremaine trained as a medical doctor and psychiatrist before starting up a social enterprise specialising in comprehensively supporting adults and young people with Dyspraxia (The Dyspraxic Doctor). She also provides regular emotional and social skills therapy for children and young people who have a neurodevelopmental diagnosis (including Autism/Aspergers and ADHD). Dr Emma has Dyspraxia herself and is a passionate writer and speaker about neurodiversity, mental health and her own experience becoming a doctor with a hidden disability. She also enjoys horse riding, yoga, amateur sewing and making people laugh.

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