Rehabilitation of thinking – A key element in maximising performance

The rehabilitation journey following an injury must be traveled with full commitment and completed. Usually when we talk about rehabilitation, it is the exercises that are focused upon: the movement, the task, the goal and how much to do. Nothing wrong with this of course as the training parameters are important to understand the effects of the exercise and how to subsequently progress. An aspect that is vital, yet less frequently mentioned, is the thinking both behind the activity and that of the individual undertaking the training.

Each exercise must have a meaning that needs to be explained. Full understanding of how, when and why the particular task is being undertaken is vital for full engagement, both physically and cognitively. In addition we have to consider the context of the exercise including the time of the day, the environment, the mood of the participant, level of discomfort, general health factors and other variables. Being aware of these influences and how they affect performance permits accurate assessment of the outcomes and where to focus upon for future improvement. In essence it is a learning process similar to that of learning a language or a musical instrument. Feedback plays a key role via the trainer correcting movement verbally and physically, and other means including exercising in front of a mirror.

The thinking of the participant before engaging in the exercise, during and afterwards will have an impact on success and hence learning. We can call this his or her mindset. Carol Dweck talks about a fixed mindset which describes a thought pattern underpinned by inflexible beliefs: it is how it is, this is my lot, change does not happen etc. Clearly this thinking can limit success and progression. A growth mindset on the other hand, is characterised by a belief that we can learn, change and grow. This mindset is one I encourage and seek to nurture as part of moving forwards following an injury or in progressing with a painful condition. In essence we are designed to change and adapt to our environment and circumstances. Given the right opportunity, input, motivation and timeline, we can evolve and develop healthier notions and actions for life both physically and in thought.

In summary, rehabilitation is not about simply going through the motions of certain exercises. It is about taking the opportunity to grow and develop physically and cognitively. In many cases we have to address thinking that is affecting the rehabilitation process, for example, thoughts that would be of a fixed mindset. Working upon these with strategies can and often are as important as the physical activities for optimum outcome. Our comprehensive rehabilitation programmes encompass these details so that you can progress from pain to performance.

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