Getting old ain’t for sissies. You’ve hear this age-old expression for years but it takes on a whole new meaning when it affects YOU and your life. If your exercise routine has been sidelined due to an injury, now is the time to finally fix the problem. Procrastination happens; but when you’re putting off something that is adversely affecting your life, it’s time to make a change. Simply follow these easy steps and you’ll be pain-free and back in the gym before you know it:
Get Motivated! Envision yourself without the pain and disability of your injury. Don’t “accept” your pain as a natural part of the aging process. You may want to get better but you have to realize that it will involve some work and effort on your part. Take time to learn as much as you can about your condition and make a daily appointment in your calendar for your rehabilitation. Your injury is not going to magically go away by itself and the longer you wait, the harder it will be to recover.
Become Aware. Take a few moments to write down all the ways your injury is affecting you. Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you favoring one side of your body? Are you taking additional medications? Have you been avoiding certain movements or limiting your normal range of motion? One minor injury can impact your entire body in a number of ways. If you’re suffering from heel pain, you may think it’s not that big of a deal. But when you consider how it’s affecting your body as a WHOLE (by taking meds, favoring your left foot, interrupting your sleep) you’ll recognize that even a small injury can be a big deal.
Get Proper Instruction. If your injury is in need of medical attention, stop putting it off and schedule the appointment today. If you think you have an overuse injury, such as tendonitis, you may want to consider seeking the advice of a qualified physical therapist before seeing a medical doctor. In 1992 the state of Pennsylvania legalized Direct Access which means you don’t need a referral to see a physical therapist (unless your insurance requires it). A good therapist can pinpoint your problem, give you hand-on treatment and teach you the proper stretches and exercises to help alleviate your pain and dysfunction. Your therapist will also let you know when it’s appropriate to a physician. A simple injection or minor surgery may be required to get you on the road to recovery.
Chart Your Progress. The healing process is sneaky. One day you’re in excruciating pain and before you know it, you feel fine. Many people don’t even realize they’re getting better until someone asks them about the level of pain they’re experiencing. My friend Robin was taking rehabilitative Pilates to get in shape for a knee replacement. A week before the surgery, her husband (who happens to be an orthopedic surgeon) noticed she wasn’t limping anymore. He asked her if she was in pain and she looked at him in disbelief and said no. After months of horrific bone-on-bone pain, she hadn’t even realized that the Pilates had realigned her knee joint and taken away the pain.
Go Slowly. When you get in the pain-free zone, don’t screw up all your hard work by doing too much too soon. Listen to your body! Ease back into your old routine or try a new program recommended by your physician, therapist or personal trainer. Give your body what it needs, not what you think it needs, and you’ll be feeling good as new in no time.