We have James Brown to thank for implanting that line into our lexicon. For those of us who are and have been living with chronic pain, this whole question of movement is one many of us have to consider each day. We’re told by our doctors to exercise and we hear the words, but our hearts sink as we say many things to ourselves, like: “How?” “Let them try to exercise with all the pain I have and see how they like it.” “Does it mean they don’t really believe me when I complain about my pain?”
We feel totally incriminated by our pain, health issues and lack of energy. How can we possibly exercise? Basically, it hurts too much. What if I told you it would hurt at first but feel better later because that happens to be the truth. For those of us who live compromised existences due to these rebellious bodies of ours, the rules are different. No more jogging for miles, weight machines in excess or rock hard abs. Swimming is a wonderful overall exercise and easy on the joints but few of us have access to a swimming facility. What to do, what to do, that is the question regarding movement and these painful bodies, whatever the source of that pain, stiffness or malfunction. We have to get up and move.
I know I’ve told you previously about a wonderful elderly nurse I used to work with. Her name was Goldie and she worked on a medical/surgical unit and she knew the importance of movement and practiced it. My memories of her are of a gray-haired woman moving briskly up the hallway, dust flying in her path, purpose on her mind. She had someone on her radar and all the patients quickly realized it. You could see and hear the scurrying in each of the 2 bed patient rooms as they feared her words as she would say, “What? You know you should be up here walking along this hall. Now get up out of that bed and walk.”
Don’t tell Goldie, but the latest studies indicate much can be achieved by exercising only five minutes a day. These same studies reveal that running for long distances do not necessarily cause one to live longer than exercising or walking for only a few minutes each day. I realize there are enormous muscular, circulatory and respiratory benefits for being ideally fit but for some of us, it isn’t going to happen. Personally, I gave up on ideal many years ago and learned to settle for getting from point A to point B and doing it without more pain. Ignoring the problems doesn’t work. We do become weaker and weaker without movement and the areas we don’t use actually win out against all the healthy surrounding tissue. Therefore,” get up offa that thing” and you will feel better.
The first time I was introduced to physical therapy, I was not a happy camper. Frankly, I thought the doctor was just passing me off to his physical therapist to get rid of me because he couldn’t come up with a definitive diagnosis. I was wrong. The physician was from England and trained in the process and advantages of regular, routine movement. He knew the importance of strength for agility in movement for both safety and function. Movement also keeps us in alignment. In other words, it keeps us straight and lends toward more safety from falls, curvatures and malformations. I used to feel like I was becoming a question mark both physically and mentally. How about you?
My previous experience with physical therapy had been in the hospital setting where I worked as an RN. The PT’s I had worked with primarily got the little old folks out of bed and taught them how to use canes and walkers, worked with post-op hip and knee replacements and other surgical procedures. I was not a little old folk at the time. I am now. My experience with chronic pain and PT was nonexistent until that time.
Physical therapy for specific problems and weak areas is a whole different ballgame. I have received immense relief over the years for spinal pain and sacroiliac problems as well as other problem areas. Going to PT gets tiresome so I have always kept a notebook of the exercises that were taught to me and usually request a print out. I feel any physical therapist who doesn’t want to give you a print out of instructions is just trying to keep you coming back and should be challenged. There is always a certain amount of time when you first find a new one when they have to access you and diagnose the problem. They also have to find out how willing you are to co-operate and how much you are going to put your heart into it. Enthusiasm? Well, let’s not expect too much from ourselves. Showing up will do until you know the plan of attack.
On rare occasions you just don’t click with a healthcare provider and that can be true of physical therapists as well as doctors or other disciplines. Unless he or she is the only show in town, try another one. It’s okay to shop around because it’s your body and you are important. No body, no you.
Eventually, I will be receiving an injection for osteoporosis and I was discussing this recently with my oncologist. He stepped very lightly when telling me to remember that exercise is an important component of any osteoporosis treatment and he didn’t want to demand too much from me, understanding what my life is like. I explained to him that I am not an athlete but I am cussedly independent and did take care of my own home. He smiled as we discussed the fact I live in a three story house and traverse at least one set of those stairs every day, many times. I explained my theory that chores, housework, laundry and cooking are indeed, exercise. You don’t have to take on the world of Atlas in order to stay reasonably fit.
Physical therapy is not always required or if it is, you can learn how to handle it at home and then get discharged. A good place to begin is by doing your daily chores and pushing through that pain. I know. It sucks but it must be unless you want to lose function. We don’t need a huge, complicated plan. We often just need to track one foot with the other and walk to the bathroom. Water a few plants. Do the laundry. One chore at a time is still keeping you functioning. I once realized how weak I was becoming on my non-dominant side, the left, and began to worry. I decided to share my daily chores and hygiene habits like brushing my teeth between both hands and arms to strengthen both, equally. Simple acts count when you live life that way. Brushing your teeth, scrubbing your face, pumicing your feet; these can all be done with alternating arms. Use it, whatever part of your body it is. No, I’m not necessarily referring to your texting finger, your flipping finger or your tongue, although all of those do get more use than more needy parts. I often count as I’m doing chores in the shower. Rough elbows? Try rubbing that soapy washcloth or exfoliate over each elbow to the count of 40. The same counting method can be used for brushing your hair, your teeth or rubbing crème onto your arms, legs and feet. It leads us back to repetition as it builds muscle and restores function that can so easily be lost due to inactivity due to pain.
We’ve all read about the importance of endorphins as they are released via activity and make us feel better about life as well as ourselves. The brain knows because it is busy sending signals when you move so, let’s follow the advice of James Brown and:
“Get up offa that thing
And dance ‘til you feel better,
Get up offa that thing
And try to release that pressure.”
It’s amazing how much of that pressure is from our own frustration from not moving. You see? We’re stuck in a terrible round-about with no way out unless we walk out, crawl out or creep out. Move it. You’ll be rewarded by it and oh so happy you did. Trust me. I know because that’s what I do. Grudgingly, miserably at times but after doing it, always glad I did. Come join me as we keep moving to live. We’re worth it.