What happens if you don’t oil your car? It might break down. What happens if you don’t change your air filters in your home regularly? Your AC may work less efficiently or break. What happens if you don’t wash your clothes? You will have no clean clothes to wear or will become like Linus with flies following you. These maintenance activities are designed to keep things running. Optimally.
In a recent discussion with my coworker Buck, I had a moment of clarity. Our bodies are not machines or systems. They are actually self healing to a degree, unlike cars.
An orthopedic example is the classic bulging disc.
80% of people have low back pain at some time in their life; very common but not normal. A recent study of 100 people without low back pain indicated 33 people had bulging discs per MRI. This finding can be interpreted as just because you have a bulging disc, it may not be the cause of your back pain. Sometimes, it’s just an incidental finding. MRI studies indicate bulging discs DO heal in about 3-6 months. That reference paints a much different picture than ” I have a bulging disc and my back will always be damaged.” “I’m going to stop moving, stop participating in my life, and definitely stop exercising.”
Physical therapy uses exercise as a treatment for low back pain. It is evidence based and well supported in the literature. Global and local effects of exercise accelerate and create a good enviroment for the healing process.
I think for lymphedema, this has implications. Lymphedema is not curable, but manageable. As of today, we cannot “fix the machine”. Therefore, efforts focused on optimizing various systems (or overall health) can lend some help to mechanisms already involved in preventing progression.
A word about lymphedema progression. The longer swelling is present in your tissues, the increased opportunity due to time of the inflammatory sequelae. When increased swelling is present, fibroblasts (cells that make connective tissue) lays down under skin. Adipocytes (fat cells) accumulate. As lymphedema progresses, the focus on treatment focuses on decreasing the local inflammatory changes. More on this later.
What can we do to decrease the rate of this local inflammation?
I used to turn my nose up at “anti-inflammatory” trends. I think sometimes normal healing processes can become villanized and the pseudoscience community can market and capitalize on this. Inflammation is essential to the healing process and is required for the intial stages of healing. Perhaps in the presence of a health condition characterized by chronic inflammation, antiinflammatory treatments may be a tool.
“Our beliefs become our thoughts, our thoughts become our words, our words become our HABITS, our habits become our values, our values become our destiny.” -Ghandi
Do you want to strengthen your heart and lungs, create new blood vessel growth, boost your metabolism for 12 hours, boost seratonin which is important for digestion and mood, decrease cognitive decline, decrease your pain sensitivity, improve your sleep, and decrease inflammation?
If someone could offer you a pill with those results, would you take it?
Take home message: Exercise is not just for people without medical conditions. Exercise can help people with chronic health issues. Developing a habit of exercise can improve how your body accomodates the lymphatic dysfunction.
Make exercise a habit in your life. Oil your beautiful machine with this tool.