The first of the year is often seen as a new beginning for many people. It’s a time for a renewal of their promises to eat healthy, exercise, or pick up a new hobby. But for a lot of people with commercial insurance, the New Year also means the start of a new plan year. The new plan year can mean a lot of different things, but for the majority of people, it means the resetting of their deductible.
Hey Superdad…your body is not as young as you think it is.
Last week I wrote a blog about women and the effect that stress and anxiety can have on their pain and overall fitness. This is a topic that gets lots of attention in the media, but what doesn’t get much play, is what expectations we have of Dad and his fitness level. We are in a time when Dadbod is seen as funny and even desirable in some cases. How did we get to this point and where should the conversation go?
Males traditionally feel less pressure to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. I would say this has a lot to do with the societal norms of the husband that works and brings home the lion’s share of the income and so there is less responsibility for maintaining his health and wellness. The mentality is also likely responsible for the 5 years longer that women live versus their male counterparts. This is likely an antiquated thought process that is unhealthy and counterproductive to positive relationships. Even if both spouses are working, usually the males are making more money. Shouldn’t it then be incumbent upon men to take care of their health even more since family financial wellness is their responsibility? The answer is yes…but we (men) get around this by subscribing to the thought that if we are still doing well in our job and bringing home the bacon then everything else is not as important. Men can let this slide for a while, but eventually the music will have to be faced and why not get a handle on health now while it is not as far gone.
Here are a couple easy ways for 30-40 something year-old guys to get back that healthy feeling from our high school and college days that we are so fond of talking about!
1) Exercise (no brainer): Getting back to exercising regularly is not an option, it is a must. Though guys may be staying thin, they are not physically fit if they are not exercising. Women call this “skinny fat”. Exercise is one of the pillars of health that everything else is built upon. Regaining the physical strength and physique from your yester years will not only make you feel physically better, but it is a huge emotional and mental boost as well. It doesn’t have to start off intense and it doesn’t have to be more than 2-3 days per week but it does have to start and become consistent.
2) Make time: Many fathers get stuck in the habit of thinking they have no time for exercise because they are constantly doing activities with the kids when they aren’t working and don’t have time. For your sanity and health you need to MAKE TIME. Your children will not suffer and in fact will likely benefit from Dad taking some time for himself and showing them how important it is to take personal time for personal wellness.
3) Meditate: Whenever I mention meditation I am already prepared for the laughing and sneers I get from men. Contrary to common belief, women and men don’t have different levels of stress necessarily, but women report it more and show more outward signs of it. Men seem to talk about it less and suppress it more so as to not seem weak, but men seem to manifest their stress in different ways, such as yelling/screaming, drinking excessively, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, infidelity and a whole host of others that we do not have enough time to go into. Meditation is a successful tool to manage the release of stress hormones in the brain. Often this stress hormone is cortisol and decreasing that in the brain can improve concentration, improve sleep, decrease fat deposits around organs, and
diminish overall stress.
4) Find a new hobby or rekindle an old one: Stop for a moment and take yourself back to your teens and twenties. Remind yourself of the hobbies you had that filled you with joy and took up many of the free hours you had during those days. You don’t have to do it at the same level but it is likely that you will still find it fun and allow you to improve your mood. Because you had more energy when you were younger it is likely something very active. Many times these old hobbies can check the box for stress relief and exercise. It certainly doesn’t have to be exercise as long as it brings joy and relaxation.
Try to get back to your true self. Take responsibility for your life and the body that you have been given. You will thank yourself down the road and those loved ones around you will also thank you. Show your community, your loved ones, and most importantly your children what it looks like to be a healthy adult.
Hey, Supermom…your stress and anxiety are affecting your ability to heal!
If you are someone that is dealing with anxiety and stress, it is very likely affecting your ability to bounce back from injury. Let’s break down the why and how.
Why does stress/anxiety matter when treating pain?
When there is consistent stress and anxiety present, the brain releases a stress hormone in the brain. This stress hormone can be cortisol or adrenaline. These chemicals affect the function of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord. All pain interpretation takes place in the brain. Stress hormones cause the central nervous system to be more sensitive, so with increased sensitivity in the nervous system, the interpretation of pain changes and is often increased. In short, there can be a direct link between stress chemicals released in the brain and the pain that a patient is feeling.
How does this affect activity?
When the central nervous system sensitivity is increased, it takes less physical activity before messages sent to the brain are interpreted as pain. So, the same level of activity that someone may have done for years is now causing pain (note, pain does not have anything to do with actual injury severity or the amount of damage to a body part). This is the aspect of the rehab process that many busy moms find difficult. Because the system is more sensitive, they have to slowly build back up their activity, but they don’t want to do that. Most people want to get back to their old workout that they are comfortable with because it required less stress. Not to mention that the fact that they can’t workout is causing more stress and anxiety. This requires a lot of attention to the exercise and the dosage of exercise. It is painstaking but can certainly teach us a lot about our bodies.
So what can the patient with anxiety do to decrease pain?
If you are reading this blog then you are already doing it! Patients must be open and honest with themselves if stress/anxiety is an issue, and that alone can help pain. More importantly, find professionals that understand your busy life and will work with you to find solutions. Once you have the right team involved, you can begin to unpack the problems and treat them with proper exercise and dosing. Dosing exercise appropriately is one of the most difficult jobs I have. It must be taken seriously because people with significant pain can get a lot worse with the wrong dosage or type of exercise.
In 2016 an estimated 1 in 5 Americans reported having chronic pain. Health economists report that in the United States we spend $635 billion per year on treating chronic pain. That is more than cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Clearly this is a huge problem in the United States. Now that we have suffered through the opioid epidemic we know that pills are not the answer to our ailments either. Here are 5 easy options to combat pain that anyone can do with little to no money invested and the research is clear….it works!
1) Sleep: A common misconception with people is that they are different than everyone else and don’t need 7-8 hours sleep. For approximately 99% of the population this is wrong and you are depriving your body of much needed healing and rest that is provided by sleep. The power of sleep is well
documented and can decrease many of the problems that people have with pain and restlessness. The sleeping process needs to be taken seriously and not taken for granted. Your body has the tools to recuperate and heal if you will let it. If you are interested in digging deeper into the world of sleep I highly recommend “Why we sleep”. It will blow your mind. Amazon link below.
2) Laugh: It sounds silly, but watching a comedy or getting together with a friend that always makes you laugh can be therapeutic. The reason for this is chemical; people who suffer from pain often are releasing stress hormones in the brain that make the pain worse. Laughing will decrease that stress chemical (cortisol or adrenaline) and thus diminish the pain that your body is sensing. Not only should we laugh more, but we should also minimize the amount of media that is not positive and uplifting. There is generally enough negativity in our daily lives without adding more during our recreation time.
3) Meditate: The release of stress chemicals in the brain is a common contributor to pain, anxiety, and depression. Meditation helps to diminish the release of these chemicals in the brain. This happens through gaining an understanding of the “self.” Meditation does not have to be burdensome or long. Research shows that just 10 minutes of meditation can have the desired effects of decreasing stress and increasing positive feelings around oneself. If you are a newbie to meditation, don’t worry because technology has made it easy and free. Try downloading these two free apps for starting your meditation practice.
Headspace: CLICK HERE
Insight Timer: CLICK HERE
4) Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins that help decrease pain and improve mood. Keep in mind that exercise is relative to the person doing it. If you are someone that does not exercise regularly then you will have to do less of it to
realize the benefits. It does not have to be vigorous to help with the chemical balance in your brain that makes you happy and not hurt. Start with a walking program and if that goes well then you can increase the intensity as
you need. When you start exercising, a good practice is to start tracking what you do in a journal. That way you have a reference for where you started and what has worked and not worked. Start slow and have some success. Success is what will keep you coming back for more. All you need to start is a pair of comfortable shoes and the willingness to start (or restart) something new.
5) Educate: Research has shown that simply educating yourself about pain can have immediate effects in reducing it. I am not talking about the fearful google searching that most people do about their condition. What I am advocating is true education on understanding pain in the body. Pain is an alarm system that your body uses to tell you that something is going on. It doesn’t have to be bad and it doesn’t have to be permanent. Most pain that people are suffering from has no relationship to the amount of damage they have in the given body part that hurts. Education is power and most people that have pain do not spend enough time understanding what the body and brain are trying to tell them. If you would like a great pain educating resource try this book from amazon.
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John Oxley PT,
DPT, OCS, CSCS, Cert. MDT
Whether or not to have an MRI is a discussion I have at least once every week. The reason I talk about it is because the decision to do an MRI should not be one that we arrive at without an understanding of what is to be gained and lost.
Let’s identify some of the takeaways from doing an MRI for your back pain.
The MRI can often help us determine where your problem is. We can also get a picture of the structures involved, but it will usually not tell us if you are a surgical candidate or not; that is determined by the surgeon based on his/her physical exam of the patient. Though the MRI may show us a picture of what is going on, it still does not tell us which structures are causing the pain.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.