Nearly every month since 2011 I have published a newsletter and nearly every month I have featured the story of one of my clients who reached their goals by following our unique program. The main reason I do this is to encourage others with similar problems that there is hope for them too. The only downside to sharing these stories is that sometimes they lead people to think that they should have results that are just as quick and just as dramatic. This may not always be the case. Let me give you an example.
Earlier this year I featured the story of a man I worked named Nicholas Naderi. Nicholas was here on vacation visiting a client of mine, so I only had about a week to work with him. He is in his early 20’s, he works out regularly, eats clean, and was a former high school athlete. Nicholas had very bad lower back pain for about 3 months prior to seeing me and within two sessions his pain was gone. Shortly after the second session he went back to Canada, and between what we did while he was here and the exercises I gave him to do at home, as far as I know he has not had a recurrence of this issue.
Let’s contrast that with John. John is 67, 40 pounds overweight, eats a highly inflammatory diet, doesn’t work out much at all, has had back pain for 30 years and has already had a back surgery that was unsuccessful.
Should John think that his results should be like Nicholas’? Why?
Common sense tells us that these two scenarios are very different because these two individuals are very different. Therefore, they should expect different outcomes from following the same program.
Sure, maybe John will get to a point where his back pain is significantly reduced or eliminated. However, instead of it taking two sessions, it might take 40. He might also have to change his diet, lose weight, do daily exercises and possibly much more. If two, four or ten sessions went by and John felt no different, it doesn’t mean that what were doing doesn’t “work” for him, it means he needs more time or more supportive pieces.
So with that said, let me give you a short list of the different factors that can influence (positively or negatively) the speed and magnitude of your recovery from orthopedic problems.
- How long have you had this problem? In general, the longer you’ve had it, the longer it takes to recover from it.
- Is there structural damage? Did any of your tissues (ligaments, bones, muscles, discs, bursa, etc) get damaged to the point of being broken, torn, sprained or strained? Do you have cartilage that’s worn down (which is known as arthritis)? In general, if these structures have been damaged it means your recovery will take longer.
- Have you had surgery on the affected area? Although surgery is popular, it alters the structure similar to an injury. In general, if you’ve had surgery on an area, it means your recovery will take longer, especially if muscles or connective tissues were cut during the surgery.
- How do you use the affected area? Every single thing you do in life places a stress on your body in a unique way. Without even realizing it, you could be doing things in life that are stressing the problem area, causing it to be perpetually inflamed. In general, the more cautious you are with your body, particularly the complaint area, the faster you will recover. This doesn’t always mean stopping or eliminating things you enjoy, but it often means doing them in a more body friendly way so as not to cause additional stress to the area.
- How many birthday’s have you had? It’s no surprise that the older we get, the longer it takes to recover from things. This is because your body slows down its production of new cells as we age. This means that cells that are damaged don’t get repaired or replaced as quickly when we’re older. In general, the older someone is, the slower the recovery is.
- How is your consumption of inflammatory foods? You may have not even heard that term before, but if you have pain I highly encourage you to learn about inflammatory foods and become more aware of your intake of them. Inflammatory foods are things like sugar, wheat, dairy, fried foods, alcohol and fatty red meats. These foods become even more inflammatory if they are from non-organic sources or have been genetically modified. The consumption of these foods is analogous to throwing gasoline on a fire and some people could eliminate their pain completely by eliminating (or significantly reducing) the intake of these types of foods. In general, the more inflammatory foods you consume, the slower your recovery and the more likely you are to have flare ups.
- How much chemical stress is being placed on your body? Chemical stress comes from, you guessed it, chemicals. Chemicals (man made substances) have the tendency to inflame the body and slow recovery. These can come from medications, household chemicals (cleaning products, etc), food items (artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, pesticides, preservatives, etc) and from the air we breathe. In general, the less chemical stress there is on your body, the faster you can recover from things.
- How much water do you drink? Your body needs roughly 1/2 of its weight in ounces per day to avoid dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, hundreds of bad things happen. Just to name a few, you don’t repair damaged cells as fast and your joints don’t have proper lubrication. This can cause aches and pains and will slow down recovery.
- How much do you exercise? What type/s do you do? Your body was created to move. The less you move, the less things work well. In general, those who move more tend to recover faster (as long as they aren’t over stressing the injured area/s). Also, vigorous cardiovascular exercise (where heart rate and breathing rate go up substantially), flexibility exercise (where you are moving your joints through their full range of motion) and strength training (where you fatigue individual muscles) will also help with your recovery. In general, people who do these things tend to recover faster.
- How is your mental attitude? Would you consider yourself anxious, stressed or depressed? If so, you are likely to feel more pain than someone who is relaxed, at ease and happy. Also, how do you view pain? Do you view it as something awful that should always be avoided? Do you tend to dwell on your pain? If so, in general, you will have a slower recovery.
Of course, this is just a short list. There are other mental and physical factors that influence someones pain level and recovery time, but this list should give you a good idea of how many things can influence the situation.
Now of course, reading that list may be intimidating for some. Some may look at those factors and think “this just seems to complicated” and they will search for something easier. A pill, a shot, a procedure or a “magic” therapy. Sadly, such a thing doesn’t exist. Our bodies were created with rules and those rules don’t change.
Most people that come to see me get noticeably better. However, everyone would get MUCH better if they addressed more of these variables. Some already are when they get to me, which makes my job much easier. Some never do and wonder why they either don’t get better or their progress isn’t sustainable.
I will tell you this from the bottom of my heart- I firmly believe that if someone does the right things, the right way, for long enough, they can recover from nearly any orthopedic problem. The question is, how bad do you want it? Do you want it bad enough to see me twice a week for 3-6 months and then periodically for years after? Do you want it bad enough to give up that stressful activity for a time? Do you want it bad enough to drink more water or change your diet? Do you want it bad enough to make time for the right types of exercises on a regular basis? Do you want it bad enough to address the mental components that may be limiting your progress? If yes, than I would say that you will probably be very happy with how things go. If not, be OK with slower and less dramatic results.
Hopefully this was helpful for you. Please contact me if you have any questions.