I just read a fabulous article by Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., titled Pain-Free for Life. Metzl is also the author of The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies and an athlete himself, believes that we can control our pain with strength. He states that strength training cannot only prevent injuries from happening but also ease symptoms if you do have an injury or chronic pain. He does not believe that the common sports acronym R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is the end-all be-all and that in fact, sometimes you just have to work around your injuries. This doesn’t mean you continue to play basketball with a torn ACL, it means you work AROUND your injuries.
Metzl’s beliefs are science based. As an example, osteoarthritis which affects most everyone by age 60, will bother us least if we build strong muscles to support our weakening joints. In the case of an injury, being sedentary will not produce the feel good neurotransmitters produced during exercise, like serotonin and dopamine. These two transmitters work like drugs making exercise our healthiest mind-altering activity! Having this taken away can be very depressing for people. This is another reason Dr. Metzl believes that complete rest is medically unhealthy.
If it’s shoulder or arm pain, get in some good cardio and lower body strength training. Stretch your neck daily and when the pain lessens get busy doing shrugs to build strength. Acute back pain can be treated with ice for the first 48 hours and heat after that. If you can, take NSAIDs and then begin stretching the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and core. After a few days, as the pain lessens, begin to work on core strengthening exercises (think Pilates) weighted squats and multi-directional lunges. Slow walking or swimming if possible are great ways to keep moving. If it’s your knee that bothers you, focus on getting those lower body muscles strong and once pain subsides start squating and bridging and when ready, add some jump squats.
The very areas that are weak, need to be carefully worked in order to prevent further injury and decline. Metzl says to make this our mantra: EXERCISE IS MEDICINE. He also shares great ideas for home ice packs. Mixing one part rubbing alcohol with three parts water in a Ziploc and freezing will make for a slushy ice pack that is pliable. Additionally, freezing a small wet towel for 20 minutes will give you an ice blanket for wrapping around the neck or a joint. Loved both of these ideas.
So in the event of an injury, give it a day or two. Then get moving. Exercise is medicine. I couldn’t agree more! Rita, I wish I had read this a couple of years ago! I will bring you the article. Last night at dinner I was asked if things hurt me all the time and my answer was a very quick NO. I am somewhat forced to get my “medicine” every day. Apparently, that turns out to be as good for my body (and mind) as it is for my business! Let’s all make exercise our medicine and maybe we can avoid some of the real stuff.
Tonight at 8pm on the Food Network….Hunger Hits Home. My DVR is set. You may be interested in doing the same. NO ONE should go hungry, especially in a country as affluent as ours.
- Five on 5 with Doctor Jordan Metzl (self.com)