The Importance of Moving

I don’t claim to be an expert in anything.  I have dogs but after raising six dogs, I would not be so presumptuous to advise others on how to train their dogs.  I still rely on my go-to resource, Auntie C., with any dog-training questions.  I have run 11 marathons and 35 half marathons but I would not coach someone else.  I know what works for me but everyone is different.  I sure wouldn’t want to steer someone down the wrong path.  The one thing I do know is that you have to keep moving.  I am a firm believer in this.  It is a “use-it-or-lose it” world.  That is something I learned the hard way.

About 18 months ago, I fell during a training run and broke my upper arm in four places.  I was fortunate it did not require surgery to repair.  The only treatment was to immobilize my arm by putting it in a sling.  The doctor encouraged me to bend over, dangle my arm and move it in circles.  It would have been equivalent to raising my arm to shoulder height.  As much as I tried, I couldn’t do it.  It was excruciatingly painful just to dangle my arm.

I could tell that the doctor was disappointed each time I came into his office and showed him my progress in moving my arm (or rather my lack of progress).   I started losing muscle because I wasn’t using it.  I was at risk of developing frozen shoulder, if I did not get my arm moving.  It was clear that just a few months of immobility had reduced range of motion in my arm to next to nothing.    When I was discharged from physical therapy, I could barely lift my arm to shoulder height.

Since then I have tried acupuncture, cupping, dry needling, massage, additional physical therapy, stretching, and various therapies by my chiropractor.  At this point, I estimate my range of motion (which should be 180 degrees) is at best about 155.  I continue to get weekly 90-minute massages.   My massage therapist has made restoring my range of motion her life’s mission.

My experience with my broken arm leads me to consider the bigger picture.  All this sitting that the modern office worker does, hunched over a keyboard, is not healthy either.  There isn’t much movement involved.   The longer you don’t move something then the less your body begins to think it needs to do.  If you don’t straighten up your back, then eventually your back will probably start saying “don’t have to do that anymore.”   Evolution probably started that way.

I mentioned this to my massage therapist today.  She agreed.  She said when a new client comes in, she can tell what kind of work they do from the areas of their body that are giving them problems.  Shoulders and back pain are typical in people who have desk jobs.

According to her, for every repetitive movement, you need to do the counter movement to ensure that you are maintaining range of motion.  It is another way of saying we need to stretch more to maintain flexibility.  Runners, for example, don’t take big steps so we end up with tight hips and quads.   We need to stretch our muscles to ensure when we need to take a big step, we can still do it.

Maintaining movement is especially important in people with arthritis.  It can be painful but the consequences of not moving joints is they will lock up even more.  It is a downward spiral from there.

I am just as guilty as everyone else of not stretching enough.  I have once again resolved to start stretching every night.  In the past, when I made stretching a priority, I found that I had fewer injuries and no sore muscles.  I started getting more flexible.   If I am successful this time, a few minutes of stretching will save me from spending hours on the massage table.

So take it from me – the person whose right arm use to be as useful as the front leg of a T-Rex – keep moving!  You will be glad that you did.