My physical therapist, Aaron Saari, encouraged me to write about my experience with pain and exercise. He reports that much of what he deals with on a day to day basis is getting patients to understand that some pain and discomfort from exercising is okay. Underlying everything written in this blog is the enduring belief that the treatments for osteoarthritis advocated by Dr. Nels Carlson and Beyond the Clinic are safe, effective and an excellent path back to a life worth living.
The discomfort of osteoarthritis is like the “Catch-22” described by Joseph Heller in his hilarious and sobering novel about World War II. “Catch-22” was a military rule which contained self-contradictory and circular logic preventing someone from avoiding combat. If you have read this classic tale, then you know what I am talking about.
Osteoarthritis contains self-contradictory and circular logic which may prevent someone from exercising. One catch goes as follows: I’m so uncomfortable because of pinched nerves or inflamed joints that I’m unable to exercise. But not exercising causes even greater discomfort as muscles become weaker, tighten and/or spasm and joints become even more inflamed. As a result, basic function becomes even more challenging and painful.
Another catch suggests that avoiding exercise will prevent additional damage to a sensitive spine and tender joints. The reality is that strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility help support the body which is damaged by osteoarthritis. As Dr. Carlson likes to say, “Hurt does not equal harm”.
I, Rich, lived for years with the contradiction and faulty logic of inactivity all the while hoping for discomfort to disappear or even just diminish. Needless to say, that strategy did now work. What has worked better than inactivity, surgery and opiates in reducing discomfort is exercise.
When I first started exercising, I was unsure of my ability to continue because the pain was extraordinary. My wife and exercise partner, Sue, helped keep me going with her loving support and encouragement. Eventually, the discomfort of exercise was overridden with the satisfaction and joy of accomplishment.
It feels really good to exercise but it’s still necessary on a daily basis to power through the discomfort and to overcome the inertia of inactivity. I keep going despite setbacks and pain because I have a goal I’m working towards and because I know that exercise is safe, effective and an excellent path back to a life worth living.
In the next “Osteoarthritis: just another challenge blog“, I will write about setbacks, goals and biographical information. Stay tuned.