Healing is a multifaceted process. When someone comes to me with back pain, for example, there are often other topics that come up. “How does it feel to be injured? How are you sleeping? How does the injury affect your job, family, recreation? How’s your diet and hydration?” I’ve often wondered about the evidence behind some of the recommendations that are suggested from various experts or we see in articles or on the internet. I’ve put together a handout, with citations included, for my patients about some common topics that come up in my clinic. Below, I’ll briefly discuss my reasoning for adding each topic but here is the handout if you want to just skip to the business.
The Healing Process: I think its crucial to have a basic understanding of what happens in our bodies when we have an injury. This knowledge helps us understand that healing is a process, not an event. It also helps us make decisions when trying to decide if and how a given intervention (exercise, manual therapy, surgery, medication, injections, anti-inflammatory modalities, etc.) will meet our goals both in the short and long term.
Sleep: We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep. Its easy to look at sleep as a waste of our waking lives and something we should try to fight (“Joe Shmoe is successful because he gets 4 hours of sleep a night”). An overwhelming amount of research shows the incredible importance of sleep for all aspects of our lives. A fascinating and in-depth read about this topic is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (I hope Joe Shmoe checks this out). Some people have been dealing with disrupted sleep for so long they think its normal or that nothing can be done. Not so! A psychotherapist with expertise in cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia can be of great help. And here’s a list of evidence-based sleep hygiene tips.
Nutrition: We’re learning more and more about how foods affect our beings and the healing process. Recommendations change based off of new information and proper nutrition for each individual is often based on many factors that are unique to that person. I frequently urge people to consult with an expert in nutrition. Ask them questions about what you’ve heard or read about. That’s what they’re there for.
Hydration: Have you ever wondered if there’s evidence behind the recommendation to drink eight eight-ounce cups of water a day? I have. Turns out there’s not, but there has been research done regarding this topic. I provide this information in the handout, and there are also lots of individualized caveats to consider.
Stress: The fight or flight response is hugely important if you come face to face with a mountain lion while on a previously enjoyable jog in the mountains (that’s pretty extreme I know, but you get my point). Many of us are living in a low-level fight or flight situation throughout each day, whether it be due to less-than-ideal relationships, work, or prior unresolved conflicts or traumatic events. Hormones are released which are beneficial in short-term situations but wreak havoc on our bodies and lives when they’re constantly in our systems.
Volunteering: I joined the Rotary Club (there are an infinite number of similar organizations who’s goal it is to serve their communities in meaningful ways) many years ago because I thought it would be a productive way to try to balance out the horrible things that we sometimes do to each other as human beings. That’s why I continue to be a member. The benefits I reaped (learning how to organize, speak publicly, work with people of differing views, gain the confidence to do things out of my comfort zone because I realize I’m a part of something bigger than myself, etc.) far outweigh my capacity to give back. I was also pleased to see the solid evidence that volunteering benefits the helper in concrete physical ways as well.
Flexibility: This topic got the ball rolling for me with the writing of Beyond Tape. I was starting to see internet musings conveying the pointlessness of stretching and felt it would be beneficial for me to compile the actual evidence. There are many benefits of stretching for both young and old.
Strength: In my experience, many older folks are under the impression that strength training is a young person’s activity. Not so! This mindset tends to be a major player in the downward spiral that can, but doesn’t necessarily have to, happen as we age. “If you don’t use it, you lose it” is for real.
Aerobic Activity: It’s hard to make a lifestyle change and starting a walking, biking, or swimming program is nearly impossible without concrete goals. We’re fortunate to have research that gives us solid guidelines to go by. It’s important to see these guidelines as long term goals rather than something we should be doing right now. I frequently suggest a person leave their front door, walk 5 minutes, and come back. Add 5 minutes next week if it feels right to you. Pat yourself on the back, you’ve made a start, and that’s the hardest part.
As always, let me know if you have questions or if you’d like to see additional topics added. And please always feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anyone that you think should be on a list of practitioners I’ve provided (see the nutrition section of the handout).
Like my facebook page for updates and more information and rate/review Beyond Tape on my website or here. My primary motivations for Beyond Tape and any of the posts are to: 1. Check out the most relevant and up-to-date research for each topic in order to dispel myths, sift out conflicting views, and help people to prevent or heal from injuries – letting me know about new research or opposing views is helpful and greatly appreciated 2. Contribute to the local and global communities by donating 100% of my net profits from Beyond Tape to service-based non-profit organizations, such as Rotary International, Doctor’s Without Borders, Access Fund, etc.