Throughout my career as a Chiropractic doctor, I treated hundreds and hundreds of people who were injured in car crashes or at the workplace. The vast majority of those people noticed at least some level of restriction in their ability to do the things that they either really had to do in their lives (work, take care of family, household chores etc.) or really loved to do that made life special (sports, hobbies, family activities, etc.). When you or someone you know has been involved a traumatic event, it’s important to pay very close attention to how your daily activities are performed now vs. how they were prior to your injury.
In the medical world, doctors call the things that patients do as part of their normal routines their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs for short). At the end of the day, it’s the ADLs that your doctors are really looking at throughout the course of your care. Think of it this way, if you can do all of the things that you really have to do or really love to do in your life and you can do them at the level that you want and expect of yourself, you are probably feeling good, have high energy and are highly functional. On the other hand, if the activities that are a regular part of your life are difficult or impossible for you to do because of pain and functional impairment, the damage done in your accident could be categorized as potentially “chronic” or even “permanent”. By monitoring the ADLs from the very beginning of your case doctors, insurance companies and we as your legal team can really see the rate of your healing as well as the impact the accident/injury has had on your life on a global level.
Generally speaking, doctors break ADLs into five categories that make up virtually every activity that patients participate in as part of their lives. Those categories include Work, Household Duties (inside and outside of the home), Social Activities and Hobbies, Rest, and General Level of Wellbeing. From the very first time you see a doctor, each category should be explored through questions pertaining to that category and then documented in his or her notes.
Work: ADLs at work include any and all normal tasks and duties you do for your job. If, after an injury you have to alter those duties in any way it should be reported to your doctor immediately. Common work duties include things like sitting, lifting, computer work, using a mouse, bending, using specific tools, reading documents, reaching, etc.
Household Duties (inside and outside the home): ADLs related to the home include all activities that involve home maintenance. The most common ADLs in this category include things like cleaning, vacuuming, dishes, making beds, yard work, home repair, caring for pets, etc.
Social Activities and Hobbies: ADLs in this part of your life are known as the Enjoyment of Life activities and include all the things you love to do in life…those things that bring you joy. This category can include anything from exercise and outdoor activities to quiet inside activities like reading, prayer/meditation. It also includes time spent with those people and groups you love doing things that bring you together in that relationship whether that be in volunteer efforts, “happy hour” groups, or intimate relationships you might be involved in.
Rest: The body heals when it rests, so limitations in the ability to sleep slow the healing process. It’s important to note any restrictions in getting to sleep vs. staying asleep, how many hours of restful sleep you are getting, and how your sleep or rest patterns have changed since the accident.
General level of wellbeing: ADLs in the category include the mental and emotional parts of your life. Any changes in your ability to accommodate to normal stresses such as driving or being a passenger in a car, being in groups of people (small or large), and being exposed to stimuli like light and sound are very important to note and to monitor.
No one knows your body like you do, and you are away from your doctor/s far more than you are with them. To have the best recollection of how you are doing when you get to your doctor’s office, document your ADLs!! If something doesn’t feel right or you have difficulty doing it, write it down and share it with your doctor so he or she can address it with you and put it into your notes to share with the insurance company and your legal team. Getting you back to living is everyone’s primary focus!