What do pullups, push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, renegade rows, tricep dips, straight arm planks, flow yoga, all have in common?
They are exercises I can no longer do.
I used to love doing these exercises….alot! I really miss burpees, push-ups, dips & flow yoga the most. Nothing like a good down-dog!
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis in my hands and wrists have changed the way I exercise and move my body.
I never thought in a million years I’d have arthritis and bone spurs in my hands and wrists.
My poor abused/injured over and over again right knee, maybe, but not my hands!
Didn’t see that one coming!
When the changes in my wrists and hands first started happening, I was in a complete state of denial as I think many of us are when facing unwanted changes in our health.
I continued to push on and ignore the pain and swelling which eventually led to bone spurs developing on my wrists.
I could be in denial no longer. This shit was real.
Of course I went through the “woe is me pity party”. How could I ever live without all of those exercises I enjoyed so much, the 3 yoga flow classes I took each week & working towards being able to do pullups?
I was frustrated and pissed off.
Then I came to realize that I was totally spending all of my energy focusing on what I could NO LONGER do instead of focusing on all the stuff I absolutely CAN DO!
So I made myself a list. On one side I wrote down all of the exercises that were off limits and then figured out what I could replace them with instead.
Replacement for pull-ups? Let’s go with a bent over row. Push-up substitute? How about a standing or lying chest press. Mountain climbers and burpees? Using a chair or bench while coming down to my elbows instead of hands, still gets it done. Renegade rows, tricep dips, straight arm planks….they all of alternatives don’t they?
Life will go on without pull-ups.
The only thing I haven’t found a replacement for is flow yoga.
But that’s ok.
I continue to kick ass by doing all the great things I can do.
As Dr. Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Truth! By focusing on the myriad of things I can do, it leaves little time to dwell on the things I can’t do.
So what are some of the proactive things we can do when we are working with chronic pain or injuries?
1-Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Why is this important?
Inflammation is a good thing when we are in the beginning stages of injury as it helps to send nourishing blood to the injured area. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it actually does more harm than good. To counteract chronic inflammation, avoid pro-inflammatory foods such as processed foods, excessive sugar and salt, foods high in Omega 6 oils such as corn and safflower (most all baked goods, chips, fast food is made with these oils). For some, dairy can also be a pro-inflammatory so it may be worth taking it out of the diet for a few days to see if your symptoms improve.
What should you eat instead? Plenty of fruits and vegetables, omega 3 fatty acids such as fish, flaxseeds, olive oil, mixed nuts, avocado etc.. Precision Nutrition has an excellent info-graphic that illustrates the types of foods to eat when recovering from injury. You can Click here to access information.
I know for myself, when I eat things like corn and wheat, my hands and wrists tend to be more fired up than when I consume other food items. Everyone is different, so pay attention to your triggers.
2- Keep a Journal of food and exercise triggers
This really helped me figure out what was working and what wasn’t. Sometimes I would do a particular exercise such as burpees, and feel fine for a few hours later…but “holy pain in the hands and wrists” the next day!!!! I take quick notes on what exercises I did with what equipment so I can see if there is a pattern forming when the pain sets in. This is how I discovered the exercises I can’t to and replaced them with those I can.
Same with journal-ling my food intake. My hubbies delicious homemade popcorn made with coconut oil fires my arthritis up almost every time. Yeah, it sucks. Wheat is not my friend either. But at least I know to stay away from these things for the most part.
3- Warm up and Cool down
Suuuuuper important anyway, but even more-so when dealing with chronic pain or injuries! When we warm up prior to exercise, we create blood flow to all parts of the body including muscles and joints. As a result, the muscles and joints become more flexible and are less likely to be injured or re-injured. In the case of chronic conditions such as arthritis, taking time to warm-up will help relieve the pain, fatigue, and stiffness that is common with the condition and prepare the body for movement.
I recently experienced this first hand when I tried swinging a 44# kettlebell for the first time. I was so excited because a client of mine bought me the bell for my birthday, I just had to try it out!
Without warming up first, I grabbed the bell and gave it a go. BIG MISTAKE! Because my hands & wrists were not warmed up properly, my forearm muscles had to take over and let me tell you; it was so incredibly painful that I had to wear compression wraps on both forearms and couldn’t even begin to type on the computer for about a week. So learn from my mistake and warm up properly!
Cooling down is also non-negotiable. Stretching can help lengthen the muscles and help with post exercise soreness. I like stretching the body and foam rolling to help the tissues, joints and muscles.
4- Progress Slowly
When we are working around injuries or pain, it’s so important to pay attention to the signals are bodies are giving us and not try to do too much too soon. Slow things down, take more frequent breaks, and lighten up on weights or impact on the days the body isn’t ready for it.
5-Wear protective gear
Wear your knee braces, wrist wraps, compression socks- whatever it is that you need to keep yourself stable and protected during exercise. I wear wrist wraps or compression sleeves, a client of mine wears his compression socks due to a history of blood clots, my brother wears his knee brace….don’t be afraid to use this stuff! Trust me, it helps!
6-Hire a Trainer
If you are uncertain how to exercise safely, hire a trainer like myself who has experience training those who are injured or experiencing chronic pain. I have spent the past 8 years working in a physical therapy clinic, training post-rehab clients. I work very closely with the therapists and have learned a great deal from them on how to train around injuries and pain. Contact your local physical therapy companies and see which trainers they recommend.
Yeah, chronic pain and injuries are not fun. Most of us will experience one or the other or both at some time in our lives. And while they can be limiting, there are ways to work around them. If you can’t figure out how to do it on your own…hire help! There is no need to let chronic pain and injuries keep you out of the fitness game!
What are your thoughts? Come on over to my facebook page and let’s chat!