avatarSandra Pawula


I Want to Be Kinder to My Body

Aging asks us to be more aware of our physical capacity, but do we listen?

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels

I have a physical body. But I ignore it most of the time.

I prefer to read, write, or color in an adult coloring book than get up and move. But as I age, I see the folly of my sedentary choices.

Three months ago, I injured my knee. Several life lessons ensued. Let me share them with you in the hope you won’t make the same mistakes.

The injury happened when I lifted a heavy box to place it atop a stack of black plastic file boxes soon to be above my head. The last few inches felt like a Herculean feat.

I could feel the force required in my lower limbs to push that box on top of the others. I wasn’t sure I could manage it.

But I’m stubborn. Even though my arms began to retreat as the heavy load neared its spot, I pushed with all my strength. As I did, I felt my left knee slip and slide and say, “WTF?”

Lesson 1: Know and respect your physical capacity—limitations and all. Don’t be stubborn like me and end up with an injury.

My knee began to hurt soon after that fateful push. The pain made it difficult to sleep. If I lay on my left side, my knee hurt. If I lay on my right side, my knee hurt. After finally falling asleep, I’d wake up a few hours later with searing pain.

“It’ll get better on its own,” I thought.

I noticed how my leg felt like it dangled from the knee above, but I didn’t let that sink in. I hobbled about weirdly and hoped my body would restore itself.

“It’ll get better on its own,” I thought. I shrugged off the injury in my body-disconnected way.

A week later, I heard something click back in place when I laid on my back with my leg extended — not my usual bedtime posture.

But the pain did not abate.

The time came for my bi-weekly acupuncture treatment. “Surely, acupuncture will help,” I thought. It usually does.

My acupuncturists didn’t place needles in my knee. But still, it felt like he had embedded a giant log beneath the skin. The discomfort was worse than no treatment at all and it gave just an hour of relief. I repeated that treatment a second time. In the end, I said, “No more of that one.”

I intended to make an appointment with my medical doctor, but I kept waiting to see if acupuncture would help or if a miracle healing might occur.

I finally saw my medical doctor five weeks after the date of the injury. The pain had lessened slightly with time. But it still bothered me at night and when I walked too much.

Lesson 2: Listen to your body. If it keeps hurting day after day, stop the wishful thinking and go to the doctor, sooner not later.

My doctor referred me to physical therapy. I waited seven weeks from the date of my injury for my first appointment. The pain had lessened but persisted.

I know my physical therapist from a stint I did seven years prior. Carla can be blunt and impatient. I understand. I’m slow to follow instructions. My brain feels easily perplexed, “Left? Right? Up? Down? Resist? Relax?”

But I don’t mind Carol’s forthrightness. She’s absolutely clear on what to do and what to avoid—a wonderful contrast to my lack of physicality.

I felt encouraged when she laid out the facts.

First and foremost, I learned not to put weight on an injured weight-bearing joint. That may be obvious to the average person, but not to me.

I had moved four rooms of furniture around to prepare for ceiling repairs just a few weeks after the injury. I repeated the process two weeks later so the ceilings could be painted.

My knee and all my other joints hurt like hell with each furniture move and replacement. But that’s me — pushing my body instead of being kind to it. It seems that I’d rather hurt myself than ask for help.

Overusing an injured weight-bearing joint aggravates the injury and makes it take longer to heal. What sane person would do that?

Thanks to Carla, I also learned the difference between weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing exercises.

Non-weight bearing (good for my injured knee):

  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Swinging (my leg)

Weight-bearing (bad for my knee, at least for now):

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Skipping
  • Hopping
  • Dancing
  • Team or racket sports

That means I shouldn’t keep going from one store to the next when my joint is screaming, “Stop.” I usually opt to get all my errands done despite the screams I hear.

Lesson 3: Don’t put weight on an injured weight-bearing joint. Don’t move four rooms of furniture around when you’re in pain.

My physical therapist almost fainted when she saw the size of my backpack-style bag.

That day I filled it with my full 18-ounce water bottle, my A5 planner with its heavy cover, my chunky wallet that even holds my never-used National Parks pass, a bag with emergency medication including two epi-pens, and my large hairbrush plus miscellaneous hairbands and bandaids.

Carla said, “No more,” to my bag. Carrying heavy items stresses an injured knee. And no heavy lifting while I’m still in pain.

Lesson 4: Stop abusing my body by carrying a heavy bag or other weighty things.

According to WebMD, most people develop some degree of osteoarthritis as they age. Aging also makes your connective tissue stiffer. A loss of muscle strength due to your extra years can put pressure on your joints, especially the knees.

Aging asks us to be gentler, more aware of our actual physical capacity, and not go beyond it. Are you listening or oblivious like me?

I didn’t listen to my body. Now I have to do the very thing I resisted: exercise—ten repetitions of seven exercises three times a day.

My injury has informed me it’s time for an attitude adjustment. I need to stop ignoring my body and appreciate the vessel that houses my overly cherished mind.

I’m grateful my injury didn’t leave me disabled. Once I finish my exercise penance, I promise to be kinder to my body and give her the respect she deserves.

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