I’ve got a patient right now that came to me about three weeks ago with back pain. At her first visit, she was in a world of hurt. I had no idea how she was still going to work every day.

But this isn’t a story about the patient. Or even about back pain.

This is a story about movement. This patient had been having back pain for about three years. She had tried a lot of different things before she found her way to my door. Previously fit and always active, her back pain had limited her activity level and added 70 pounds to her frame.

When I first saw her, it was clear that she was terribly deconditioned. For three years, she had simply failed to move. Any initial injury was likely long since resolved but now she had to get over the recovery from whatever it was that started her back pain.

Our bodies need to move. No … our bodies have to move. We are made to move. I don’t mean we have to run or jump or play sports. But we do have to move.

A lot of the health problems that we as Americans are suffering from today are due in no small part to the lack of movement. Obesity. Diabetes. Heart disease. Vascular disease. All those things and more can be effectively treated with movement.

Let me break it down in a little different context.

Years ago, rehab — my world — was focused on joint protection. In other words, after knee surgery or shoulder surgery, we might brace or splint and protect the joint from movement. Then we got smarter. Now we know early movement is a huge advantage in rehab.

Total knee replacement? Needs to move early and often. Rotator cuff repair? We will even go into the recovery room to start early movement.

Our joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles need to move. Put a healthy joint in a cast and take it off in a month. That joint, which didn’t hurt before, will now hurt.

I guarantee it.

Our heart, GI tract, lungs and blood supply need us to move. Our bodies are amazing and how they work is simply incredible, but without movement that body starts to deteriorate.

You don’t have to run a marathon but you might need to walk around the block. If you can’t walk, then maybe you ride a bicycle. If you can’t ride a bicycle maybe you can swim. If you can’t swim maybe you can just get into the water and move around. It works. It really does.

Our bodies are not made to sit in the same place for long periods of time. People who spend too much time at a computer have all sorts of issues. People that drive for a living will eventually pay the price. Something will fail them. Their back. Their neck. Most likely, their shoulders.

I don’t watch much television. I do have a favorite show: Madam Secretary. I can’t tell you when it is on but I know that my wife keeps it on DVR so I can watch it whenever I want to, without commercials.

The only other time that you will catch me sitting in front of the television is when Clemson’s football team is on. But sitting even that long leaves me feeling…well..yucky. And stiff. My body is telling me that it needs to move!

So here’s the rest of the story about my patient: The first time I took her to our rehab gym, she cried pretty much the whole session. I picked her exercises carefully (and wisely, I hope) but I was convinced she just needed to move.

The second session she cried but cried less. The third session she noted that she was better. By the fifth session, she declared that she felt “marvelous” for the first time in three years. I didn’t provide her with any great physical therapy interventions, I simply asked her to move. And gave her parameters to do so safely.

What about you? Do you need to move more? Do you stay in the same position doing the same thing for long periods of time? I’ve got one really important piece of advice for you, simple as it may be. JUST MOVE!

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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