A Question Of Exercise
One of the most basic factors of health is exercise.
So Learning the following is vital to your health.
Why should one exercise? What should one do for exercise? When? How much?
Can it help my injury or pain?
Or is it also possible that it could harm me, and if so how can I ensure it only helps and does no harm?
The answers are rewarding.
Because Exercise builds health.
Start with cardiovascular. Research shows that you should elevate your heart rate, close to double its resting normal, on a regular basis. That keeps your heart and blood vessels in better condition (don’t forget about eating right too!). Research shows that doing this minimally twenty minutes at a time, three times a week will help you to not die of heart attack or stroke.
Stretch can be very valuable; it keeps you flexible and reduces joint problems that cause pain. Many back pain sufferers have been helped immeasurably by stretch.
The very old methods of “yoga” still demonstrate some of the most workable ways to stretch the spine. You go forward, backward, sideways and twist for rotation. Athletes who stretch their legs and arms, as well as the spine, have been shown to improve performance, decrease pain, and diminish the chances of injury.
Weight training has been proven to help people of ALL ages. What does it do for you? For one it sculpts your body, making you look better and giving you more enjoyment when you survey yourself in the mirror. It will increase your “lean body mass” (your muscles as opposed to your fat). That helps keep your stomach, butt and other parts of your body from getting out of proportion. This is not merely a question of aesthetics. (See our write-up on “Syndrome X”.) It actually becomes a question of life and death. More lean body mass and more exercise will burn more “fuel”. That allows the food eaten to be more consumed, rather than stored as fat. It improves self-image, metabolism, endurance, immunity, and should be implemented as a part of your health program.
Rehabilitative exercise, done to help recover from injury, pain and/or malfunction is a great tool. Problematic and damaged areas can be stretched, strengthened, toughened, trained, returned to coordination and control.
Can exercise be harmful? It’s a curious fact that almost everything good has a point where the wrong amount, too much, too little, the wrong type or the wrong timing causes that good thing to become bad.
Exercise is no exception. I cannot count the number of times that patients have consulted me for injuries sustained in exercise. There is the whole field of “Sports Injuries” in which we are renowned. A knee can be damaged, a spine injured, a shoulder or foot sprained, as well as many other areas of the body. Injuries vary in type and severity.
The general rule to reduce these occurrences is to perform within YOUR OWN capabilities, and to increase on a gradient. Use good sense, good equipment, good shoes, etc. It’s possible to get hurt in many sports, even when well-prepared. If the injury is not rapidly and completely self-healing, get good competent help. A kinesiologist with nutritional training as well, can often be your best bet. Then there is the case of the patient who is sent by their doctor to “rehab” therapy (not drug “rehab” for addiction, but exercise “rehab”) for a back, a shoulder or a knee injury. “Doc, every time I went there, I came out worse. I had more pain and less movement than before I saw the therapist. What gives?” We find that as a general rule people improve and heal through three phases.
The first is called “Relief”. Get them out of pain, bring down any swelling, diminish the inflammation, reduce the symptoms. The second is called “Correction”. Bring them through the necessary treatment until the problem is healed quite well: the tissues have healed, the damaged areas rebuilt properly and in the right place. Finally the third phase is called “Strengthening”. Get the muscles strengthened, the range of motion returned, the area in tip-top condition. Many times if more active exercise is employed in phase I “Relief”, or too early in Phase II “Correction”, the areas trying to rebuild get re-injured, re-torn up, and set back. The clue to this is often that the symptoms worsened after the exercise or therapy.
Exercise often has its best place in Phase III “Strengthening”, where the power of strengthened muscles and better movement can be obtained without re-injury or slowing the healing process. A clear example of this is in our area of helping musicians with pain, numbness, weakness or lack of control. “Doc, how much can I play my instrument?” is a frequent question. Our answer, derived through helping thousands of musicians is as follows. You can play. But try not to play where you increase your pain or symptoms during or after. Try not to cross that line, unless making a living or keeping from going crazy forces you too. Do your best not to symptoms through use; that usually means that you are slowing the healing process. If you do cross that line, back it off, and do your best to stay below it after.
As you get better, that line will move upward, and you will find that you can do more and more. Sometimes, of course, in discussion with a patient and having reviewed his problem, we will instruct him to avoid certain activities or even be temporarily “disabled” from performing a particular job. These are the same basic rules we have found to help in the healing of all injuries.
Exercise is a vital factor of health and an invaluable tool. Use it correctly and well.
Universal City Medical Wellness Group (UCMWG) is a Multidisciplinary & Complementary Alternative Medical Group near Universal Studios, Studio City, Hollywood, North Hollywood, Burbank & Toluca Lake, in L.A.
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