Friday, August 14, 2009
A New Exercise Program Has Really Helped – Part I
Last winter a Physical Therapist (PT) came out to the house to evaluate my current capabilities and exercise program. Fortunately, the lady was familiar with Kennedy's Disease, so I didn't have to provide a lot of background. She was very impressed with my current exercise program, but had several improvements/modifications that I have been using and they have really helped improve my strength and balance.
I become excited when something comes along that can significantly make a difference and these changes and additions to my program have done just that. Through the years, I found that I have compensated for many of my inabilities ... in other words taken the easy road. The PT challenged me to not always take the easy way and focus on not just maintaining, but also improving my capabilities and self confidence. Fortunately, I enjoy exercising and have much of my adult life.
Several neurologists confirm that light and (I will use the term)‘smart’ exercising is good for your muscles and motor neurons because it stimulates them and keeps them functioning longer. Another benefit of exercise and stretching is that it can cause ‘cell inhibition. Cell inhibition happens when an activity just started, such as an exercise (or a back scratch or massage), temporarily blocks an unpleasant sensation like a chronic pain. The nerve transmits the pain signal to a cell in the spinal cord which is inhibited by the new "traffic" caused by the new stimulus. It is why pinching the cheek blocks the pain from the anesthesia needle in dentistry.
However, for those of us living with Kennedy's Disease, any type of activity that overly taxes your muscles could be detrimental to your condition. The key is to just do what the body feels comfortable doing. Never exceed your capabilities. The goal is to stimulate the healthy muscles and motor neurons without doing any harm to them. Before starting, I recommend discussing the potential benefits and risks of any exercise program with your neurologist and general practitioner.
For me, one of the big differences I have seen in this new program is my ability to stand up without having to immediately grab for something to maintain my balance. Another is the new-found confidence in standing for longer periods of time using my own muscles, or even turning, without having to lean on a cane, walker, counter top, or wall. My arm, shoulder, and neck strength has also improved substantially. No, I am not Mr. Universe or someone with washboard abs. I am, however, someone much more confident with my current capabilities.
Tomorrow, I will discuss my new exercise program a little more and provide a link to the ‘guide’ that I developed with the help of my physical therapist. Until then, repeat after me, “Exercise is good. Being a couch potato is bad.”