I’ve come to appreciate the importance of visual cues in healing and recovery, particularly in my case of a traumatic Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). As I’ve written about many times before, recovery from SCI doesn’t just involve a standard protocol or physical rehabilitation regimen with proven results. I confidently believe that when treating a more “simple” injury (i.e. a broken bone, torn ligament, strained muscle, etc.), both the patient and the practitioner can rely heavily on the standard protocols of recovery to achieve the desired results. “Wait this long, then do this, avoid doing that and things will improve.” I don’t mean to downplay the magnitude of these injuries, or oversimplify them but with an injury like mine, that involves not only a massive physical trauma but an immense emotional and psychological one, and that leaves the person with little to no standardized protocol for recovery, one must be open-minded and creative in finding potential treatment options.
On that note, I have to recognize the importance of visually seeing the recovering body in a positive or optimistic position. At my therapy center, I love the fact that there are mirrors plastered on every wall, not for the sake of vanity (I have zero desire in seeing myself sitting down in a rolling contraption) but because I recognize the importance of watching myself in the positions that I want my body to be in: standing, walking, squatting, upright, and such.
It’s likely impossible to prove but I am very confident that if someone were to do a study on recovery, with two groups of people dealing with the same injury and the only difference between the groups was the use of mirrors and visual feedback, that those people with the visual feedback would have better results. (If someone already has links to studies like this and wants to share, I’m all ears…)
So, I wonder, did it take me this long to figure out such a simple concept? Why am I bringing this up now, more than two years after the last time I was able to look at myself in the mirror and see my standing self, smiling right back at me?
I’ve always understood this, but only recently have I really taken it to a new level. Not long ago, I placed a mirror in front of me in the standing frame I have at home, so I could watch myself in an upright position, so I could remind myself that this is the right position to be in: feet planted, legs vertically extended, back straight, and eyes looking ahead. I firmly believe that the more I can send a visual signal to my brain/subconscious/whatever you want to call it, the more my body will, in turn, respond to these stimuli and motivate recovery to get me back into that position. (I also think the same result can come from the visual stimuli we see in dreams but that’s a separate post for another time…)
I also have to give a lot of credit to my girlfriend who has consistently implored me to look at old photos and videos of myself standing, running, and walking, further confirming this idea. I can’t say I’ve been good about doing it thus far but that’s changing now. I am taking every opportunity I can to provide my brain with the positive visual stimuli that come from being upright. I recently found a printed out photo from the very first camping trip the two of us took together, only weeks before my accident, of me standing up, backpack on my shoulders (as was often the case) imitating the drawing on the rock next to me. I taped this photo up above my desk, providing myself with that many more opportunities for positive visual feedback, so I’ll conclude with that: