Most of us have hurt our backs at some point in our lives, as referenced in our previous post (see: acute low back pain). After the acute inflammatory stage is over (usually within 1-2 weeks), and most of the pain has subsided, the question is what is the next step?
“I pulled my back and can’t move” is a phrase many of us have said at some point in our lives. It happens. Lifting heavy boxes during a move, doing yard work, or cleaning your floor are common ways. It can be scary when it happens, seemingly every movement and position hurts. The first instinct most people have is to just lie down, ice, or take pain killers and try to move as little as possible. Ice and pain killers can help take the edge off, but contrary to popular belief, lying down and doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. Bed rest will actually make things worse and the recovery period longer.
Participating in a telehealth physical therapy session does not require as much to set up as it may seem. True, it’s not in a clinic that’s fitted out with all the equipment and machines that are commonly used, but there are many alternate ways to still receive effective treatment and perform exercises. As long as you have your device to participate in the video chat and some floor space to lie down and stand up, you will be able to partake in a session. Ideally, you want there to be as minimal distractions as possible, so you can focus and glean the most benefits possible from your session. Once you have a space that you are comfortable in, you can then give your body your utmost attention to help it heal.
Telehealth is an integral part of healthcare, and it has become vital during times of social distancing. Physical therapists typically treat their patients through physical contact, and treating through telehealth has been a relatively new experience for us at Park North. However, we have found that telehealth provides us with an opportunity to become more creative in our approach to evaluating and treating people. There are effective ways that we can help patients move and feel better without physical contact, and telehealth allows us to take advantage of the many exercises and stretches that can be performed with little to no equipment. Many exercises using body weight alone can still be extremely challenging.
A common misconception that people have is that stretching is always necessary to prevent injury. People believe you should always be more flexible, and that the more flexible you are the lower the likelihood is of getting hurt. For the most part this is true, as the majority of people are stiff and tight, especially with the increase in desk and computer jobs nowadays. Yet, there are times when stretching is doing more harm than good. There is such a thing as being too flexible and mobile. A common example is a dancer. When you think of a dancer, most likely you are thinking of someone who is extremely flexible and able to move in and out of positions fluidly and effortlessly. They are trained and taught since a young age to be as mobile and flexible as possible. Now, obviously your average person is not that flexible, but along that spectrum there are many people who are closer to that range of flexibility, whether it be through what exercises they do like yoga or stretching classes, or being naturally more flexible due to how their bodies structurally are. These are the people who have to be careful how much they are stretching.
People are often asking about stretching. When should I stretch? Should I stretch before or after I workout? When people say stretch though, they are often referring to a static stretch in which you are holding a position for a period of time, such as your classic hamstring or calf stretch. You see it everywhere. People statically stretching before a run or playing a sport, thinking it’ll help them “loosen up”. However, there is another type of stretching which should be performed beforehand called dynamic stretching.
Everyone has the same questions. How can I continue to be motivated to stay in shape and stay active with the gyms closed during this time? There are still many ways you can challenge yourself physically. This time doesn’t have to be wasted on binge watching TV shows and movies on your couch, especially for those of us who already spend all day working in front of a computer or laptop at home. Instead this is a chance for you to work on your body in ways you haven’t before. This is a time that many of us usually do not have during our normal daily routines and workouts. Your physical health doesn’t have to suffer.
When I say weight training or strength training, what goes through your mind? Most of you will probably think of elaborate machines in the gym, weighted plates and dumbbells. If you aren't much of 'gym' person, it can all be very overwhelming and intimidating. It can all be very unnecessary as well. There's a misguided perception that the more weight I use, the stronger I will get. This could be true if you are a professional weightlifter whose competitive success is judged on a number of weights lifted but for the majority of us, lifting more/heavier weights will not make us stronger. Do not mistaken progress in strength training with progress in education. It's apples and oranges (although both should be considered lifetime journeys). In an education, we see progress when we move up a grade (4th grade to 5th grade), collegiate class (sophomore to junior) or degree (bachelor's to master's). Let's take a different approach to strength training. Instead of measuring progress by the number of pounds or reps we lift, let's measure how hard our muscles are actually working. Weights, plates, reps are all external numbers. Our muscles are our own internal measurement. Our physical personal growth. We feel them. They tell us when they are tired, cramping or in pain and they will always inform us if we gave them a good workout or not. How many times have you told yourself "I just had a great workout!". It doesn't always happen but when it does you feel it. Look at your muscles as an onion. They have layers. Once you work through one layer, it's time to go deeper into the next layer. This won't happen by adding more weight but by adding more mental focus and energy.
The new year is here. This is time for us to reflect on the year we’ve just had and look forward to improvements for the future. These improvements may not necessary be a resolution (which rarely work) but more an awareness to weaknesses within ourselves that need some attention. Changing a weakness to a strength doesn’t just happen overnight (or in an enthusiastic vow right before the ball drops in times square). It takes years to develop, then it changes and it evolves again. People are constantly changing and evolving and usually find solutions to the weaknesses. The question isn’t “are we going to turn our problems into solutions?” but “how much time are we going to take to turn a problem into a solution?”. There’s an old saying that health is wasted on the youth. Why do say that? Because young people spend so much time and energy on problems that eventually work out. Then when we get older we ask “why did I waste so much energy on that problem?”.