Pain and injury can makes us feel quite vulnerable, due to weakness, fear or pain avoidance. This is very common in the early stages of illness and injury but can at times persist beyond expected healing timeframes. Some people under these circumstances may feel that they or their bodies are fragile, and this can often lead to a sense of inability to adapt to the challenges in our life.

This can become a problem if it alters our beliefs about our bodies long term and we begin to think of ourselves as a weakening structure like a building rather than an adaptable organism that can continue to heal, recover and reorganise thanks to our remarkable physiology.

Anti-fragility describes a system that benefits from disorder and chaos, similar to the concept of growing through challenges. In contrast a robust system stays the same and a fragile system becomes weakened and more fearful.  The human body is a great example of an anti-fragile system. An athlete’s muscles adapt to repetitive stress of training to create more strength, size, and power; some people have even developed tolerance to toxins via increasing exposures over time. 

In the case of an injury such as knee or back we often see people become stronger after the injury and better skilled in preventing future issues. This may require external support and guidance to direct the process of positive adaption or anti-fragility. Tailoring rehabilitation and exercise programs specifically for your body and injury can assit this positive adaptive process and mind set

The scientific term that may explain this in our bodies is called ‘hormesis’ which to simplify quite heavily describes the trend for lower levels of stressful events to cause positive adaptations while stressors that cross a certain threshold can become harmful – in short, if we are taking a mindful and consistent approach to our body and minds response to exercise, recovery and rehabilitation we can take advantage of this natural response and encourage our bodies and mindset to shift from being fragile to anti-fragile.