Motion is Lotion

"Motion is lotion!" -- Dr. Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD

I recently attended a lecture on pain put on by the Courage Kenny Foundation by Dr. Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD, who is a co-founder and CEO of the International Spine and Pain Institute (ISPI). Passionately bursting forth with many great quotes throughout the presentation, Dr. Louw exclaimed one that I've heard before: "Motion is lotion!" He went on to emphasize how important exercise is in the treatment of chronic pain. He also stressed taking "small steps" while exercising and not overdoing it by exercising too much or too strenuously--which is common mistake.

According to information provided by Allina Health and the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (where I've had physical therapy more than once), the following are some tips on how to exercise and signs that you're maybe doing too much.1

How to start an workout routine

Follow your exercise prescription from your therapist or doctor:

  1. Aerobic exercise
  2. Strength training
  3. Flexibility and balance

If you do not have an exercise prescription or you're having a hard time starting one, ask your doctor for a referral to physical therapy.

-Do what you can based on your abilities.

-Walk around your house.

-Walk around your neighborhood.

-Do something you enjoy. Walk with a friend or with a walking group.

-Join a fitness center (if you are able).

-Start small.

  1. Exercise for 5 minutes 5 times a day.
  2. Add 1 to 3 minutes each day as you are able.

Don't overdo it

As you exercise you should be aware of your body's response. Signs you are doing too much can include:

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cold sweats
  • Being short of breath (unable to sing but still able to have conversation)
  • Exhaustion or unusual fatigue
  • Feeling as if your heart is suddenly racing or pounding
  • Any chest pain or pressure in your teeth, arm, jaw, ear, neck, or between your shoulder blades

(Call your doctor if the symptoms do not go away after resting. Call 911 if you can't reach your doctor.)

Using my bicyle for exercise

A couple evenings ago I went on my first bike ride in a really long time. I'm embarrassed to even admit how long it's been (many months), but hey, at least I finally did it. Most of winter and spring were filled with RA flares and one sickness after another for me, so exercise hasn't really been at the top of my priority list until now. Who wants to go biking or do any exercise when you're in pain and feeling crappy? Not me. Climbing back onto my poor, neglected bike that night felt really good, I must say. But it wasn't easy--the hauling of my stiff body onto the seat or the ride that followed.

I set out to ride one of my usual and favorite bike ride routes, a 2.9-mile path that encircles a small lake, which is more of a marsh now. Not long after my feet hit the pedals, I noticed how tired I was and how difficult it was to keep pedaling. What's going on? I'm usually never this tired doing this ride, and especially not at the very beginning of it. My legs felt like lead, slowly chugging through thick concrete or a river of molasses. I switched to an easier gear which helped some, and kept going, determined to finish.

Finally, after a few brief stops and much sweating and water-drinking, I did it. I finished the whole thing, which I know isn't very far, but if felt like a marathon to me that day. However, I suspect that I was guilty of what Dr. Louw strongly advises against: doing too much. I was covered in sweat, short of breath, and unusually exhausted. Maybe that first ride after many months of no biking should've been just a little ride around the block instead of tackling a total of approximately five miles (with hills).

Stubborn and probably stupid, I didn't want to take it slowly though. I wanted to throw myself into it and accomplish what I usually do, or more if possible. This is not a great or safe approach, I know, and I'm constantly working on trying to make wiser decisions when exercising. Next time, I'll try hard to stick to riding around the block if I have to, and spare myself extra pain and discomfort. Motion is lotion, just don't use too much!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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