Chronic Pain can feel like a strait jacket, especially if your body is held to ransom with muscle spasms, muscle tightness and a fragility which means a wrong move or knock can have a massive effect. Not only is your body held to ransom but you are mentally held by the same ties. Care free is a long way off. Life is black and white with occasional flashes of colour.
In the past when I have tried to do exercises, even gentle physio led ones I have come to grief. The last time resulted in a herniated disc (is this because I was shearing the disc through twisting due to it being under such pressure bought on by muscle tension/spasm?). However now I feel I have reduced the muscle spasms and tightness through my vertebral column. So simple but so effective. I can bend and move in ways I could only dream of before with confidence that nothing sinister will happen. The ties are loosening…
I wrote previously I would update the blog on how I personally was doing. I am starting to go through Sarah Key’s extensive body of work on joints in the body. The book title is ‘Keep your Joints Young’ in the UK and I think ‘The Body in Action’ on the other side of the world. In previous posts I have written about doing spinal rolling, reverse curl ups, knees rocking and the back block routine. I am now adding in some other exercises such as child pose, legs passing, segmental pelvic bridging, squatting, floor twists (gingerly!) and really getting in with the tennis ball to get those rusty facet joints moving. I’ve also had fun going through the other joint exercises to see which joints are stiff and which are fine. Toes are looking good…! I gained a lot of information in one morning. Less than a year ago I couldn’t have dreamed of doing any of this.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am thankful to have found the things that make a real and lasting difference. Maybe one day I can be free of that jacket and emerge as myself, changed yes but hopefully more butterfly than caterpillar.
It was 7 years ago that I played tennis with my family. We had cycled to the tennis court, played for an hour or so and cycled home again. That night my arm and neck had incredible pain in them and I could hardly move let alone sleep. It was clear something very bad had happened. In the end it was three prolapsed discs, about a year of recovery and a couple of years to get rid of the arm pain completely. The damage to my confidence was not so ‘quick’ to heal.
Sunday was a beautiful day. Cold but sunny. A perfect day for tennis!!! In the quest for normality this was a goal I had set myself. I love tennis. It reminds me of my carefree days as a child hitting a ball to a friend or against a wall. Summers where there were very little worries.
With my mind firmly set on my ability to spot and get out of trouble should it arise we had a lovely afternoon with the children on the tennis court. A walk rather than cycling to the court was the pre-match warm up and a walk home was the warm down. I know from the many previous times where I have embarked on exercise or sport it takes up to three days for the inflammation process to kick in with a vengeance. After the game I used a plai oil/argan oil blend (4 drops plai to 15ml argan) to massage my lower back and neck to hopefully stave off any inflammation (the temptation to use some NSAID’s was great but I knew I wanted to know if I could survive without). I did some back ironing, a small amount of spinal rolling and a little tennis ball massage as well. That evening I watched tv for 30 minutes lying on the floor with my legs up on a bean bag. I hoped and hoped…..
The next day….a comfortable night, thankfully. A slightly stiff neck, sore shoulder and fragile lower back…..that’s all so far! Fingers crossed for day 2 and 3! I’ll continue with the exercises very gently and also using my Alexander Technique knowledge to reduce any tension in the vulnerable areas…..
Could this be the start of the next stage of rehabilitation?…..only time will tell.
I notice in winter time I turn inwards against the cold. My posture changes, my goal is to reduce the surface area of my body which is exposed to the cold air. My shoulders gravitate forward and in and I tense various muscles – I guess in the hope of becoming smaller! Living in an old house which has its fair share of icy drafts means sometimes it hard to feel wrapped in a layer of warmth however many clothes I put on. Its at times like these I wish I could hibernate!!
I know at this time of the year I have to be really vigilant keeping my muscles relaxed and warm, not contracted. In the morning its especially hard to leave a warm bed. The warm shower never seems to last long enough. The thought of doing exercises in a cold room does nothing to my good intentions! I have to step up the mental energy required to push forward my recovery.
Countries that make regular use of saunas are places that I wish to be. Either that or winter sun!! But no, I am here and its time to wrap up warm, go for a brisk walk in the few hours of sunlight we have and put into practice all my Alexander Technique tips to keep my body relaxed and moving efficiently on this cold day. How many months have we left until Springtime?
So let’s get specific. Hopefully the techniques I have described in the rest of the blog are applicable to most people, with each person adapting them as required for themselves. However I wanted to give you an idea of the sort of things I do day-to-day to give some more specific ideas of some sort of routine which you can adapt for yourself.
In the morning, before getting out of bed I stretch/elongate in a balanced way. After a warm shower I will do some spinal rolling (Sarah Key exercise), a small amount of back ironing and if sciatica is a problem, have a check with the tennis ball for any sensitive areas in my back which I know aggravate my sciatica. I then massage on those areas (usually the same side of my spine as the sciatic pain) with the tennis ball. All this takes at the most 5 mins.
In the day, usually by some time in the afternoon I need to spend 10 – 20 mins lying down to take the pressure off the discs in the lower back. I use semi-supine for this (an Alexander Technique position). I also add a bit of back ironing if my lower back is a bit tight. Obviously this depends if I have access to an area to lie down! If I can’t lie down then Sarah Key has a good squatting technique. I will use the Alexander Technique throughout the day as a background to my activities (this means I will try to use my body as effectively as I can to reduce any tension and stress on all areas of it)
Before bed, its more back ironing, tennis ball checking and massage, exercises from Sarah Key (spinal rolling, reverse curl-ups) and if my back is relaxed I will try Sarah’s Back Block routine to try to help feed my discs. If things have flared up then I use semi-supine for 10- 20 mins. Anywhere between a total of 10 and 30 mins of treatment depending on time available and how my back is feeling. Each day will therefore be a little different depending on what activities I have been doing and how my overall well-being is.
In time I hope to be able to add more of Sarah Key’s exercises to help my lower back further and also try some of her exercises for other joints in the body. Sarah Key also gives details in her books of a 30 min daily exercise plan.
Layer onto this some walking, swimming and hopefully in time further sport/exercise and it combines to make life much more comfortable! Try seeing what works for you!