In the clinic, we talk with our patients a lot about the importance of life long health and wellness. Most of the time, by the time they see us as a patient, they may have stopped their favorite activities such as playing tennis and taking their evening walk and every day things have gotten painful, such as unloading the dishwasher and picking up their grandkids.
I was thinking more about this while having a conversation recently with one of my family friends. She was telling me how much her back had been hurting her recently. She is in her mid-fifties and is usually very active with walking and playing tennis. However, she had not been as active over the last two months while traveling and visiting family. By the time the two months were over, doing things like putting on her shoes was tough. She tried to return to tennis but had to cut back because it was too painful.
She recently started physical therapy and after a few visits, she is starting to see improvement in her pain and daily tasks are becoming easier. She is really eager to get back to her top physical shape and is nervous about this pain coming back.
I encouraged her to continue physical therapy to get her back to her normal self but also told her to start looking at a long-term plan to manage this so it doesn’t happen again.
You see, she was doing things she loved to do with playing tennis and walking but she wasn’t incorporating specific training or exercises to maintain this. It would be similar to a professional basketball player only playing in games and not doing any strength or agility training. Professional athletes HAVE to do strength training in order to perform at a high ability and more importantly, prevent injury.
We are no different. Not adding in strength training plus a few weeks of time off exercise completely, her back pain had the perfect opportunity to creep in.
To prevent this from happening again, we talked about having some back exercises that she does on a regular basis as well as routine check ins with her physical therapist to assess for any areas of weakness and to help refocus and tailor her home exercises as she gets stronger. This plus adding in some regular low impact strength training, such as Pilates, will help be her “Back Medicine” to help her stay on the court and away from her over the counter pain meds.