Role of Mental Imagery in Sports Injury Recovery

When sports injuries occur, there is a lot of emphasis on physical rehabilitation. While physical rehabilitation is an important step to recovery from injury, the importance of mental imagery in expediting the recovery cannot be underestimated. Many athletes across the globe rely on imagery to expedite their return to their trade. Experts note a marked difference between the recovery times of athletes who use imagery and those who do not. Imagery enables an athlete to visualize scenarios that depict healthiness and peak performance, among many other positive scenarios.

What is mental imagery?

Mental imagery, also known as self-hypnosis and guided imagery is the technique of mentally visualizing the desired outcome of an action, such as recovery from sports injuries. You typically use all your senses to visualize the outcome as though the outcome has already occurred or is happening. Mental imagery, though now widely treated as part of exercise program to overcome injuries, can be applied to multiple areas such as sports or academic performance and other disease recovery programs.

Benefits of mental imagery

According to Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, “What patients believe, think and feel has profound effects on the body. Thoughts and emotions are 50 to 90 percent effective in most conditions.”

Among many mental imagery benefits, an athlete can feel:

More motivation. More personal responsibility towards the injury. An improved quality of life. Less depression, if any. Less time spent at rehabilitation process. Reduced pain. Improved mood.

A lot of real-life examples are to be found on the use of self-hypnosis. For example, gymnast Janine Rankin used guided imagery to find relief from severe back pain. According to Rankin, -I didn’t know much about the biology of my injury, but I knew that I needed oxygenated blood circulating through troubled areas, so I imagined it going through the heart and through the inflammation of my back and the troubled areas, I pictured the inflammation breaking up and getting carried away.-

Self hypnosis applications

Mental imagery can be, among other things, used for pain reduction and healing. Positive visualization can relax muscles which can hold a lot of tension. Relaxed muscles release tension and that can result in pain relief. Imagining sitting by a tranquil and steady stream or getting a hot bath are all examples of imagery. Of course, different examples may work better for different individuals.

Experts believe that imagery and physical rehabilitation can complement each other. Many are of opinion that focusing on physical aspects of a sports injury alone may not be a comprehensive treatment solution. An injured athlete goes through varied emotions after injury and many of those emotions are negative such as fear, anger and depression. Guided imagery can enable an athlete to manage such emotions well. An athlete, with imagery, can perform rehabilitation exercises or actions with a positive mindset and that will hasten the results. It, however, makes sense to perform self hypnosis under the guidance of an expert.

About Author:

The author Brian Anderson has been a medical journalist for the last 5 years and has written several medical journals and articles about sports injury recovery. His articles for are quite informative and can be found in several submission websites.