One of the most surprising things that I’ve noticed is how many niggling musculo-skeletal aches and pains people are prepared to put up with on a continual basis. Not only this, they’re often willing to compromise movement function and activity patterns in order to get by. Why is this? It seems to me that we have a prevailing culture of acceptance of certain physical limitations, especially when age can be leant upon as an excuse.
A client of mine once called me the day after a hip mobility treatment, to announce that she’d ‘sprung out of the bath’ that morning whereas before she’d had to lever herself out using her arms and she’d played the best round of golf in ages. Some months previously she’d visited her GP about pain the pain and stiffness she was experiencing in her hips, only to be told ‘what did she expect at her age’. Sadly, that’s all too often the response and it had made her consider giving up golf for good.
The one thing that you can be sure about small, niggling aches and pains is that if ignored they will become bigger problems as time goes on. That stiffness in your shoulder when you try to look behind you when reversing the car or the twinge in your back when you get up off the sofa will not go away of its own accord. Instead, your body will find ways of compensating: adjusting your posture, de-activating a particular muscle or laying down more connective tissue for example. Your body is extremely adaptable, but unfortunately that adaptation can just as easily go in an unhelpful direction and become increasingly debilitating.
It can be quite hard to get your head around the fact that this adaptability works in reverse and that, even as you get older, your body is still renewing and rebuilding itself on a continual basis. However, it requires effort and discipline on your part, because changes that have occurred over what may be decades are not going to be fixed by half an hour on a treatment couch. Just like buying a ticket if you’re wishing you could win the lottery, visiting a therapist is a good way to start, but if you really want results it’s down to you to do your share by exercising, changing your habits if necessary and having a positive attitude.
Earlier this year I treated someone who had continual pain on the side of his left foot, to the point where he couldn’t walk properly and so was spending an increasing amount of time sitting down (like I said, it’s amazing what people will put up with). When I looked at his foot, it had become extremely supinated, with the sole facing inwards, and a line drawn down his Achilles tendon and through the centre of his heel bone went round about a 45 degree bend.
I worked on the fascia around his tendon and heel to begin repositioning it and showed him a stretch using a towel which he could do every day to encourage his foot back to a more normal position. I didn’t see him for a couple of months and when I did he explained that the pain had reduced and become more central on his foot the day after treatment, thereafter it went away completely…but he had been doing the stretching religiously every morning. He asked me to have a look at his foot to see if it had changed. I was amazed – I could now draw a perfectly straight line down his Achilles tendon and the centre of his heel bone. His foot was re-aligned, he was now weight bearing properly and walking without pain; his effort and persistence had paid off.
So, the message is: don’t give up your sport, lower your horizons generally and put up with pain – get to work and get it fixed. And if someone tells you to act your age, don’t listen to them.