Whenever someone suffers an injury or becomes unwell, the first thing they will ask a medical professional is simple: “how long until I’m back to normal?”
This desire for a prognosis is entirely understandable. We know that medical professionals cannot absolutely predict when we’ll be back to our usual selves, but it helps us – mentally – to at least have an idea. In addition, it’s also helpful to have an idea of when recovery can be achieved in practical terms: we need to know out how long we’ll need extra childcare while we recover from illness, or what a figure we’ll need to discuss with our personal injury lawyer in terms of loss of earnings in the aftermath of an accident. Asking for an idea of when we’ll be back to our version of normal is thus completely understandable… but what if the timescale provided comes and goes, and we’re still unwell or injured?
Finding the right pace of recovery
First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that when medical professionals provide a prognosis, they are essentially making a guess. It’s an educated guess, of course; they are basing it on their experience and what they have seen with other patients… but it’s still a guess.
If your projected date of recovery passes you by, and you are still struggling with an illness or injury, then you need to ask yourself: “how close am I to full recovery?”
If you broke your ankle and were told it’d be back to normal in eight weeks, then by the eighth week, you’d expect to be almost back to normal. You might still have some soreness, perhaps even some bruising, but the finish line of recovery would be in sight. If this is the case, then the fact you’ve crossed the eight-week recovery time isn’t concerning.
If it has been eight weeks and your ankle is still extremely painful and unable to bear weight, then you’re clearly some distance from genuine recovery. At this point, it may be worth going back to your doctor for further advice – there may be an issue they have overlooked, or you may have developed a complication that requires further assistance.
The above example is a good way of approaching a prognosis: see the “recovery” date as a point to aim for, but far from a guarantee of 100% recovery by that stage. If you reach that date and have clearly improved – say to 80% – then you may just be a slow healer, or your doctor was a little too optimistic to begin with. However, if you reach your date of recovery with no improvement in sight, then a return to your doctor is almost certainly going to be a sensible choice.
It’s easy to fixate on a date of recovery in the aftermath of an illness or injury, but this date is flexible, and subject to a variety of variables. By using your projected recovery date as a point to assess progress rather than a fixed line in the sand, you should be able to manage your recovery – and your expectations – in the best way possible.