A Common Complaint Part 2

Farmer Sitting on a Tractor One of the most common complaints I hear from patients is that they experience pain in transitions; going from sitting to standing, standing to sitting, getting out of chairs, getting out of bed. Now let me say, I never hear that complaint from 20 year olds. I only hear it from those over forty.

About a month into our anatomy class, my partners and I decided to go ask Dr. Daly about our cadaver. We found out his age and his occupation; 55/farmer. That satisfied us greatly. But we were amazed at his age. He looked 65+ if a day. We determined that was due to years in the sun. But the inside of his body looked like all the other septuagenarians and octogenarians; stiff and yellowed. No effects of the sun there. 

Most of the cadavers looked like people I knew. They had soft hands, no chronic tan lines. The appearance of good health even in their fatal repose. But without exception their soft tissues were yellowed, thinned and stiff compared to the young woman who had taken her own life. As you age your soft tissues get toughened, thinned and stiff. They’re in a state of degradation. That’s the point.

So my recommendation, based on the daily complaints I hear from those over forty and based on my cadaveric experiences, is that you begin to develop a habit of doing a little stretching before transitioning from one position to another. After forty.

Now look, you don’t have to do some thirty minute Jack LaLane stretching program every time you get out of your car or out of bed. Just make sure the joints are ready for the transition.

Bend and straighten your knees and your back. Just a covert movement. You don’t have to pull your ankle around your neck or do a sun salutation. Just bend and straighten your knees. Make sure they’re ready to go where you’re planning to go.

When I’m riding my horse, going around in circles or whatever, I never just take off and make a big sliding stop with my horse. I sort of introduce his body (and his mind) to the fact that we’re going to start making big stops. I do a slow gentle stop first. Then bigger and bigger. That seems logical, doesn’t it?

Frankly, when you’re 60 and you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve got to introduce your body to the idea that you’re going to be standing up in a few seconds.

And getting out of bed is a major culprit. People are always so surprised that they hurt when they get out of bed in the morning! Think about it. You’ve spent the whole night horizontal to gravity. Most of the night you’ve been curled up in some variation of the fetal position. Now you want your body to just jump up and stand. Hello disagreement.

You can actually hurt yourself getting out of bed. That’s the beginning of the curse of plantar fasciitis for many people. It’s the movement that results in a degenerative meniscus tear for others. So introduce your body to the fact that you’re going to be standing up now. Again, this doesn’t have to be a thirty minute program.

-Roll over onto your back.

-Bend and straighten your knees and hips.

-Rotate your hips in and out.

-Stretch your feet up and down.

-Then turn over on your side, curl up a little and push yourself up into a seated position. This is important. Most of us use our legs and weak abdominal muscles to kind of yank ourselves from a face up position in bed to a seated position. This really aggravates the muscles and joints in your pelvis and back.

– Now wait for a few seconds. Stretch your feet and knees again.

-Then stand.

If you get into the habit of doing this when getting out of bed, I promise it will improve the quality of your rising!

I know that if you try to do more of this kind of quick stretching, and I frankly wouldn’t even go so far as to call if officially stretching… more of an introduction or preparation for what is to come…it will improve the experience of going from one position to another and lessen your likelihood of suffering pain…not all pain…but some.

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And now that I’ve got your attention regarding anatomy lab… Consider donating your body to a medical school. It’s a great way to pay it forward. Your doctors learned anatomy on someone else’s loved one. My mom donated her mom’s body to my medical school. It was a wonderful thing. That summer, after her body had been used to educate medical students, Texas Tech School of Medicine held a memorial service for all the people who had donated the bodies. I guess you would have to say it was for all who had donated their bodies. My whole family went to it. Several medical students spoke, thanking us for the donation. It’s a good thing to do. I remember my cadaver. I learned a lot from my farmer and I thank him for that.

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