31 Mar Steps toward building strength
In my last few columns, I’ve provided strategies for managing your mobility and comfort. In this column, I’d like to take a slightly different approach and present an analogy that I use regularly when talking to my clients.
I consider my clients’ ability to buy into this theory integral to their success in returning to — or continuing to live — the life they love.
Your body has a bank account of strength. There is a threshold amount of strength that is required to optimize your body’s function. If your strength drops below this threshold, you often experience symptoms of pain and dysfunction.
It is often at this point that you might consider seeking medical attention and start physiotherapy.
Through physiotherapy, you are often working to rebuild strength in the affected areas. As soon as you meet this threshold of strength, you feel better; the pain and dysfunction lessen or disappear.
This is the point at which many clients self-discharge from physiotherapy, feeling satisfied that they have addressed and resolved their issues.
If you have not built up your strength account significantly beyond that threshold level, you remain at high risk for a recurrence of your issues.
If the demands of your life or activities increase, it moves the threshold requirement and you may feel symptoms return.
Similarly, if you reduce your level of activity due to injury or illness, your strength may quickly drop below the threshold level, leaving you vulnerable to a resurgence of past problems.
Most of us are quite accustomed to managing our financial bank accounts. With finances, we sometimes refer to keeping some savings in a rainy-day account to have us prepared for unexpected expenditures or hardships. We need to approach our strength the same way.
The demands placed on the body can change for a variety of reasons (both good and bad), so it’s important to ensure we have prepared ourselves to meet those changing demands. We need to build up our bank accounts of strength.
To make a significant improvement in muscle strength takes a minimum of six to eight weeks. This means rehabilitation programs generally need to be carried out for at least this length of time if improving strength has been identified as the goal.
In many cases, the optimal duration for exercise is much longer. It is all dependent on the circumstances surrounding your injury or condition and needs to be guided by a professional.
Remember to stick to the program, even after symptoms have resolved. This approach can really pay dividends in the weeks and months to follow, as it enables you to live the life you love without unnecessary pain and dysfunction.