Care, consistency, courage and coaching are my “4 Cs” of chronic condition management.
There are different types of care. Top of the list is great medical care. You must have a good relationship with your primary care provider (general practitioner, GP). I’m not suggesting you be family friends who go out for dinner (that could be difficult) but you should feel comfortable that your GP “gets” you and that you trust their level of care. This is the medical professional on your team that herds the cats (your specialists) and keeps the information flowing, in a sense the gate-keeper.
Self-care is extremely important. Self-care isn’t all bubble baths and scented candles, although those are nice. Self-care includes doing the things you MUST do to maximise your health, minimise your pain. Making the time to do stretches, walk, swim, lift weights, sleep, eat well: “doing the hard yards” as my father would say. Yes, the other sort of self-care, the time-out, rest, relax: also very important.
Being careful is also a form of care. One example I have written about before is changing exercises where necessary. My own example is I no longer do dumbbell chest press because getting off the bench irritates my spine.
Being careful with our body weight is important – for many, weight gain can mean increased pain levels.
Consistency is paramount. When we were healthy, our bodies could recover from a week or two of no exercise, a night on the booze or day of crap food. Sure, we may have suffered a hangover or the scales may have jumped a kilogram, but we easily recovered from the damage.
Once we have a chronic condition/illness/disease not only are our bodies not as resilient, we are likely on medications that, while doing very good things for us, may also compromise other aspects of our “internal workings”. My own example is my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) medication suppresses my immune system – logical when you think about it, of course, given RA is an autoimmune condition, my own immune system attacking me. This means I have to be super careful not to catch bugs/viruses, as I recently did. I ended up in ED with what felt like a ping-pong ball in my throat.
Exercise, such as stretching and resistance training, will stop your body deconditioning and greatly assist with pain management. However, the gains we make can be lost VERY quickly once our bodies are unwell. Consistency is vital to ensure we maintain our gains and keep building on our achievements. I have discussed exercise in more detail in Doctors and Exercise, so please click that link for a more comprehensive presentation about the importance of exercise.
During a consultation with my endocrinologist he asked, “Do you take your meds?” Frankly, I was shocked – what a strange thing to ask, I thought, of course I take my medications! He asked because my thyroid was misbehaving again and my blood tests were not within the reference range – again. Clearly some patients don’t take their medications as prescribed.
Most medications for chronic conditions require consistency to be effective. If you feel the dose or the medication isn’t working as it should, TALK TO THE SPECIALIST before changing anything. You may do more harm than good. If the problem is remembering, set alarms in your phone. Some medications can take three or more months to reach the required level of effectiveness.
Be consistent. With medications, exercise, diet, rest, sleep, hydration.
Even if you have to dance to get there!
Yes, courage. It takes courage to start AND to keep up the fight. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”. The treasure is maintaining quality of life for as long as possible. For some, the cave is MOVEMENT! It can be hard to think about movement when we are in pain. Or we feel we can’t “keep up” in the gym. Today is my swimming day. The predicted high is 13 Celsius. Do I REALLY want to get into my bathers and hit the pool, or would I prefer chocolate cake and a nip of Bailey’s Irish Cream? Consistency! Courage! Just do it!
The benefits are worth it. I have avoided a knee replacement and radiofrequency denervation of the lumber spine. Yes, I MAY need both some time in the future (distant future, I hope) but for the moment, I’m good. I’m on no pain medications.
Four years ago I started with four x 5 minute walks a day.
Now a gym session looks like this:
- 4 sets leg press
- 3 sets chest press
- 3 sets shoulder press
- 1 set body weight squats
- 3 sets Smith Machine squats
- 3 sets tricep extensions
- 3 sets bicep curls
- 3 sets lat pulldowns
- 3 sets leg extensions
- 3 sets pec dec
- 8 minutes on the rowing machine
I got VERY annoyed recently when I lost muscle strength and had to drop my leg press weight down from 160 kgs. While we still don’t have a medical explanation, I am building back up again, so perhaps it was just a temporary glitch. We have temporary glitches.
I didn’t get to where I am now without care, consistency and courage.
Professional athletes all have coaches. They have goals. WE also have goals (hopefully SMART goals)!
Perhaps we need to look at ourselves as endurance QOLs – Quality of Life is the goal we strive for, not necessarily running 3,100 kilometres in 45 days! Our mental challenge can be just as extreme, even if our physical achievements are not. 8 Steps to Retain/Regain Quality of Life
People are all different, conditions vary greatly. Even so, the sooner you start managing your condition instead of your condition managing you, the better your chances of retaining your quality of life for as long as possible.
Sometimes all that is needed is help to get started. Sometimes a patient may prefer longer term support and encouragement.
Coaching helps the chronic condition patient take control. There is a fifth “C” – Control!
Too often patients feel they are “OK for the moment, I’ll worry about all this later” (when my job is not so stressful/the kids are older/the house is paid off). My advice is don’t wait. Start now to protect your future.
Contact me for a confidential chat as a starting point.
Note this article is intended for chronic condition patients who have a medical clearance or medical advice to exercise. This can be at any level from beginner.