Physical therapy plays a significant role in the healing process for all types of injuries, but there are also psychosocial factors that can influence how long it takes an individual to recover. Research has shown that one of the most significant psychosocial factors during the injury recovery process is “social support.” Social support has been defined as having caring people around for guidance, encouragement and assistance. Ones social support network can consist of a number of different people, including family, friends, co-workers, teammates, coaches and therapists.
Although ANY social support is beneficial, research has shown that it is important that key people are part of the social support team. For instance, in terms of return to work following injury, research has discovered that workers who felt they had good social support at work, such as getting along with co-workers/supervisors and having a caring work environment, were less likely to develop chronic pain, recovered sooner and returned to work sooner. Along the same lines, the majority of injured athletes reported family and friends as their primary sources of support. However, social support from therapists, coaches and teammates had a more positive effect on the rehabilitation process. More specifically, social support from therapists and medical staff has a strong influence on the athletes well-being and recovery during rehabilitation, while support from coaches and teammates was necessary for a successful return to sport and competitive readiness.
As a friend, spouse, parent, coach, employer, coworker, etc., don’t take for granted the power of supportive relationships by letting others know that you care. Social support helps decrease stress, enhances positive beliefs, promotes overall well-being and improves coping skills during recovery from injury.
Take home message:
- Coaches and teammates should stay in touch with injured athletes and keep them involved in team practices and functions;
- Athletes have a more positive rehabilitaion and return to sport if coaches are sensitive to the injury, supportive and reassure the athlete that they will return to pre-injury status;
- As an employer, workers returned to work sooner and recovered quicker if they perceived a caring work environment. Check in on them and let them know that you are looking forward to their healthy return.
Fernandes et al., (2014). Social support and sport injury recovery: An overview of empirical findings and practical implications. Revista de Psicologia del Deporte.
Steenstra et al., (2011). Systematic review of prognostic factors for workers’ time away from work due to acute low back pain: An update of a systematic review. Technical Report.
Melloh et al., (2013). Who is likely to develop persistent low back pain? A longitudinal analysis of prognostic occupational factors. Work. 297-311.