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Forearmed is forewarned

Published 10 months ago 05th February 2022 by Neil Dennehy

Prevention is better than cure, or so they say, and yet so often we wait until we are in dire need of help before addressing our aches, pains and injuries.

“Not too bad” is a common response to, “How are you?”, around these parts anyway. Not too bad… Not great, good or even grand but instead, bad, just not too bad.

It’s a response that slips off the tongue, but it says a lot, all the same, about how inclined we are to accept lower levels of wellbeing as the norm. Age is often the justification, sometimes it’s habitual, not knowing or remembering what it’s like to feel very good.

What would happen if we were to raise the bar a little higher in our health expectations? Maybe if we reach for the stars, we just might touch the moon!

I like to apply a health scale, ranging from -10 to +10, to our mental, physical and emotional health.
In physical terms, a zero would mean that we are pain-free and mobile, just about. Rock bottom at -10 means absolute agony or virtually no use of the body-part in question. The pinnacle of Olympian levels of fitness and comfort would register a +10 score.

It seems that many of us are happy enough with a 0 or even a -2 or -3. Middling as some would say. That’s the “not-too-bad” range. In minor discomfort we can still get by with our day-to-day tasks, find some relief when we rest and then carry-on.

Not too bad is often the worst place to be. It’s not good but not bad enough to do something about it. Worryingly, it takes very little to knock us down another few rungs on the ladder. Most chronic injuries are a long time in the making. At least when we reach the -5’s or worse, we’re forced to deal with the problem. I often remind my clients that a good injury can be a blessing if we learn from it!

Alternatively, the +5 or +6 range is a great place to be and very achievable with a little self-care and some professional support where needed. This range gives us real comfort and great use of our bodies.

With greater health and resilience, we are protected when extra pressure comes on. It’s a bit like bringing the car for a regular service so she runs smoothly and reliably rather than waiting until it breaks down and costs us a lot of stress, disruption and money to get her back on the road.

The value we place on our cars dictates how we look after them. If I was to hand you the keys of an old banger, would you look after it or just drive it into the ground? What if I then told you that it was a rare model that is valuable and would be worth even more if you did it up? Would you shine and polish it, use the best of fuel, drive it with care and invest time and money in it to get it in tip-top shape? Faith sure you would, and rightly so.

Your body is more valuable than any car and there are no trade-ins. It repairs its own scratches, runs on many fuels, can go on-road, off-road or through water. It can even modify itself to be more efficient over long distances or when pulling heavy loads. It’s quite incredible really.

Forearming ourselves with an attitude of self-care is essential if we want a good quality of life over a typical 80+ year lifespan.

Speaking of forearms, our upper limbs play a considerable part in our physical wellbeing, doing much of our daily work. As such, they are prone to injuries.

I’ll start with one of the worst i.e., Frozen Shoulder. I say it’s the worst because it is one of the most debilitating, painful and difficult to treat. It can take up to 2-3 times longer than typical injuries and is closer to a 60% success rate. For some it needs a lot of time and for others, surgery. In most cases, deep-tissue massage of the rotator-cuff muscles, pectorals and some work on improving thoracic spinal curvature is essential. It rarely gets better all by itself.

Tennis elbow is not limited to the Djokovic’s of this world, or those who play racket sports. Anyone with a profession or hobby where repetitive forearm and hand movements are the norm can experience its intense burning pain caused by tendonitis on the outside of the elbow. This includes gardeners, tradespeople, butchers and musicians. Luckily overtight and overworked forearm extensor muscles are easy to access and release within a few treatments. Stretching the forearms helps too.

Likewise, we don’t need to set foot on a fairway or green to succumb to golfer’s elbow. Similar to tennis elbow but with pain on the inside of the elbow, it too results from tendonitis. In this case it is the forearm flexor and gripping muscles that have become excessively tight and need releasing. A combination of deep-tissue massage and stretching is quite effective here also.

Carpal-tunnel syndrome, which painfully immobilises the wrist, is common in office workers through repetitive typing and use of the computer mouse. True carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes irritated as tension increases in the wrist. A surgical intervention to cut the wrists flexor retinaculum (it’s like a cable-tie that keeps the tendons neat) can offer some relief although this is rarely required. Manipulation of the soft tissues is usually enough. In many cases it’s nerve impingement in the neck, at the brachial plexus, that refers pain down to the wrist and hand. Non-invasive treatments should always be considered before going for surgery.

Our hands, fingers and in particular the thick muscle pad at the base of our thumbs, can all become painful, stiff and weakened over time. The opposable thumbs we share with other primates give us the dexterity to design, build and operate a variety of utensils, with the hands themselves being the greatest of all implements. Hairdressers, massage therapists, musicians, craftspeople, growers and other hands-on workers must look after these essential tools.

Be positively greedy about the level of health and wellbeing you will accept, experience and enjoy.
You can find more detailed holistic health tips and much more in my book, “What to do with Stardust? A mindful guide to health, wellbeing and success” available from the Honeypot Health food store, Sacred Senses, the Bookmarket, Clonmel and www.highestpotential.ie . Contact details for our Health Matters team of wellness practitioners can be found on the website too.

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