As Christmas can be a time for reflection, let’s all reflect on our musculoskeletal health and whether we are doing enough to remedy that nagging injury. What are you doing to change the situation? New Year resolutions are fast approaching, so now is an excellent time to start planning a better, healthier 2022.
The pandemic has been very hard on everyone, and most people would agree that it has had a negative impact on our health as opposed to a positive one. On top of carrying a few extra pounds, many of us have aches and pains attributed to a lack of adequate preparation for an activity. In other words, many people have been more sedentary over the last year, which has potentially reduced our strength, our cardiovascular capacity and range of motion in various joints. When gyms reopened, and sports resumed, many people jumped right back into strenuous activity and were injured as a result.
Logically, if you’re in pain, the first step in the process is to identify the problem. If you have a painful injury, it would be wise to get it properly diagnosed. A diagnosis, along with a discussion of your lifestyle and the factors contributing to your pain, is essential to recovery. In many cases, patients engage in habits that perpetuate the irritation of tissues. We often approach recovery with the motto “break things down and then build them back up.” This means, let’s first unload the area of pain so it isn’t getting continually aggravated. This will allow for a reduction in pain and a recovery from the injury. December is a great month to “settle down” your pain.
Given how busy December is, it could be a great time to get away from that desk chair, take a break from the movements that are aggravating your nagging injury and give that area some relative rest. This does not mean complete rest. It usually just means a minor tweak in your routines and habits (including your workouts) to allow your injury to “settle down.” The hope is that by the new year, your pain is minimal, and you can begin the process of “building you back up.”
Call it a New Year resolution or not, but January is a great time for a reset. It’s a time to adopt better habits and healthy routines. It’s a great month to build yourself back up, build capacity and lay the foundation for a healthier 2022.
Here are a few things to consider if you have that nagging area of pain:
Prevent Recurrence – As mentioned above, a practitioner can assist you in identifying the factors that are preventing your pain from settling down. Examples include prolonged sitting and back pain, rotational movements that aggravate back pain, hobbies like knitting that irritate elbow pain, or staring at that cell phone and aggravating your neck pain. Identifying irritating factors and modifying them is vital. If you’ve been doing this for all of December and have effectively achieved a settling of your pain, try to keep what you’ve learned in mind moving forward. As one example, if reduced knitting helped your wrist pain improve, then don’t go back to too much knitting too quickly. It doesn’t mean you have to avoid it altogether, just pace yourself and be mindful of your symptoms as you build your endurance back up.
Resistance Exercise – Rest can be helpful for reducing pain, but if we rest for too long, we can facilitate frailty. We don’t want that! Everyone should be doing some form of resistance exercise throughout life; it just needs to be tailored to your ability or your diagnosis. If you need to, consult with a suitable practitioner who can provide you with the guidance to build up your strength in a slow and steady, safe manner.
Mental Health – More and more studies are showing that our mental health has a significant impact on our physical well-being. Mindfulness and meditation may really help to turn down the volume on our pain. A positive attitude and an optimistic outlook on your physical injury are paramount to maintaining good physical health.
Clean Eating – We all know how terrible it feels after you overeat or eat junk food. Obviously, a poor diet has direct negative health consequences. Healthy eating intertwines with our mental and physical health. Many people underestimate the negative impact poor eating has on our mental health, which then negatively impacts our physical health. Eat clean for a healthy mind and body.
Sleep – Our musculoskeletal system needs time and rest to repair. Sleep is important to give our tissues a chance to rest and replenish. Again, a lack of sleep has a negative impact on our mood, which then impacts our physical health.
Make it Pandemic Proof – We’ve now seen that, unfortunately, our day-to-day routines can be drastically changed at any time. After hearing the stories of so many people over the last two years, it’s important to keep in mind that things can change in an instant. Make sure you have alternatives to your exercise plan if facilities or sports get temporarily closed. If you’re working from home, recognize that you’re not moving very much throughout the day and plan some time for exercise. Feeling down? Eat clean and don’t start any bad dietary habits. Go for some exercise and keep focused on your goals for better health.
Bring it on 2022… we got this!
By: Dr. Kevin McIntyre B.Kin., DC