I had a bad fall some years ago. Because of the spinal injuries and constant pain, despite several operations, I cannot move very well and find any exercise almost impossible. Some days are better than others, but they are few. I have so much muscle and weight loss that I look skeletal. How can I break out of this rut sensibly? The local gym wanted hundreds of pounds to join, which I do not have.
Pain and injury can create a nasty downward spiral in which you tend to limit your movement because of the pain, but then find that everything gets even stiffer and more painful, simply because you are moving less. To break this spiral takes courage and determination.
As I don’t know anything about your specific injuries, my advice can only be general. But if any of these suggestions work for you, they should improve your quality of life a little.
Ask your GP about:
* physiotherapy: you’ve probably had some physio before, but ask your GP if they would refer you for some more sessions, and be sure to ask the physiotherapist for home-exercise advice
* taking a protein supplement, if you don’t already
* “exercise referral”: There are more than 1,000 such schemes UK-wide, in which GPs can get certain patients on to a very low-cost gym programme, supervised by well-trained instructors. Not all GPs know about these schemes, so if yours doesn’t, ring your nearest council leisure centre to find out more.
In addition, consider:
* Joining an “IFI” gym: hundreds of council-run and private gyms are now accredited as “inclusive fitness” facilities. They have both the equipment and expertise to train people with disabilities and major conditions. Click here to search for your nearest IFI leisure centre. And these centres should certainly not be demanding lots of money from you to join.
* Helping yourself: on the good days, set yourself targets for gentle exercise, such as stretching, mobility and a short walk (if you are able to). Some simple back and stomach strengthening exercises will help, like those in the booklet “Exercise for Arthritis”, which you can download from Arthritis Care
* Learning to relax: constant pain can be hugely energy-sapping and causes the body to build up tension. There are many helpful relaxation techniques, some involving nothing more than focused deep breathing. Ask your health centre for information on local pain management or relaxation courses
Finally, keep an activity diary. When life is so up and down, it’s easy to lose track of progress. Make notes on any exercise you manage to do on your good days. Write down not just exactly what you achieved but also how you felt in yourself afterwards. You can use the diary as a reference to help you plan to get through a tiny bit more the next time you exercise. And if you do get settled in a reasonably regular routine, you may surprise yourself, when you look back over several weeks, at how things are starting to improve.