Mental Practice When Injured
Injuries happen, as much as we try to avoid them. Whether it’s an ankle injury and you are in a bootwalker, a knee injury that requires you to be in a knee brace, or a wrist injury that has you in a cast, there is nothing fun about injuries. That being said, just because you are injured doesn’t mean you can’t participate in your favourite sport or activity. It just means you must participate in the activity differently, and that is through mental practice.
Mental practice, also known as mental imagery or motor imagery, is the creation or re-creation of an event/activity in your mind using your senses. Studies have shown that mental practice can help with many things including: learning a new task, maintaining muscle function and range of motion during an injury, and improving self confidence.
Sounds simple, right? That’s because it is!
There are a few things you need to know in order to do this properly.
- Perspective: First or Third Person
- First person is seeing yourself doing the task through your own eyes. Third person is seeing yourself doing the task from an outside perspective. Think of third person as if you are watching a movie of yourself doing the task.
- Vividness: Using All of Your Senses
- Mental practice isn’t just about using your vision, it should be done using all of your senses. What sounds happen? What can you smell? What do you taste? Can you feel the weight of your equipment in your hand? The more senses you use, the better the practice.
- Controllability: Timing and Attitude
- You want the practice to happen in real time. Do not practice in slow motion or sped up time. You want the practice to be realistic. You also want the practice to be positive and meaningful. You don’t want outside distractions or negative thoughts creeping in (if you have ever seen the movie Happy Gilmore, you’ll understand what we mean).
Now you know how to use mental practice. Next, it’s important to understand the 5 types of mental practice and when they are used.
- Cognitive Specific: Mechanics behind a specific task or skill
- Cognitive General: Game planning and strategy
- Motivational Specific: Positive outcomes of a specific event/competition, seeing yourself winning
- Motivational General – Arousal: Regulation of relaxation, stress, anxiety, and arousal
- Motivational General – Mastery: Coping or dealing with difficult situations or circumstances, self-confidence building
Many professional and amateur athletes use mental practice daily to better themselves and their performance. However, it’s not just athletes who can benefit. A study done on stroke victims has shown the importance of mental imagery during rehabilitation. If we look specifically at motivational general-mastery (MG-M), this is the easiest for the general population to use.
A good example would be an individual who has osteoarthritis (OA) in their knees. Use mental practice to picture yourself walking pain free and confidently. Mental practice can also help with adjusting to wearing a knee brace while walking. Picture yourself in the knee brace and doing the activities you love with a positive outcome. It will help build self-confidence and also help build trust back to the affected area. Check out our other article about coping with an injury for more helpful tips!
Remember, mental practice is free and can be done anywhere!
Certified Orthopedic Bracing Specialist
Arthritis & Injury Care Centre