(broad)ject self #15: Self-Care When...You're Hurt

I had dinner with an old friend the other night and as the meal arrived she had to fish a Robaxacet out of her purse. I asked why she was taking it and she explained that she had hurt her back about a month ago and then re-hurt it as it was healing. Besides, she said, her work involves a lot of being hunched over at a desk which doesn’t help. I asked if she was seeing anyone about it and she confessed she wasn’t. I made my usual self-care spiel that I know all my friends so enjoy and we moved on.

She’s not the only one, of course. David sprained his ankle doing some wood clearing at his family’s farm in the summer and it took forever to heal, likewise thanks to no professional intervention. Don’t even get me started on all the people I know who are grinding their bodies down playing Ultimate. My theory is that we’re getting older, but not so old that we’ve gotten used to the idea that we can’t put our bodies through what we could get away with in our early 20s. We’re busy, with jobs and families and lives, so we play through the pain as if that’s enough to make it disappear.

I did something to my knee in the late Spring and given that I was running the Nike Women’s 15K in June as well as hoping to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, I wanted to get ahead of it. I got the prescription for physio from my doctor at my annual physical and made an appointment at the physio place that’s a seven-minute walk from my office. Of course, the issue turned out not to be my knee and instead my hip, but I’m happy to say a summer of exercises, foam rolling my IT band, and regular check ins has me back in business.

I’m lucky. I have a boss who will let me work from home so I can go to the doctor. I have a doctor who will write a physio prescription (required by my health insurance). I have a great physio office with lunch appointments within easy walking distance of my work. My health insurance covers a chunk of the cost. I don’t mind looking like an idiot doing one-legged squats while I wait for the kettle to boil or for my lunch to heat up. I’m also unlucky in that I have some pretty serious motivation to keep my body moving with ease in the form of a sibling who had a hip replacement in his 40s and parents who have varying levels of mobility issues.

The ergonomics of your workspace, whatever that might look like, are really important. We just got new cubicles at work and I had to spend some time last week getting everything back into place. I found this explainer from Lifehacker to be really useful. I bet a lot of people don’t have their monitor(s) in the right place on their desk. Don’t be afraid to talk to your office administration to request any ergonomic tweaks you might require for your workspace, as that is a workplace health and safety issue.

Likewise at home, make sure your mattress and pillows are the right level of firm or soft for your particular sleeping style. This infographic from She Knows and the Cleveland Clinic shows the best sleep positions for various body pain issues. You spend about a third of your life in bed, so it’s worth taking the time to set things up to support your body and mind for a good night’s sleep.

And of course, get to know your health insurance (your plan and anyone else’s plan who you might be covered under). Not every plan offers the same coverage for services like physiotherapy and massage, but you might be surprised at how generous your plan is, particularly if you have a health spending account of some kind. If you don’t have health insurance through work, you can always consider buying into your own plan. At the very least, it’s worth remembering that medical expenses not covered by private health insurance can go on your taxes (which I know personally thanks to a root canal and crown that I paid for out of pocket).

We only get one body, friends, so it’s up to you to take care of it. It doesn’t get easier as we get older and more fragile, so the more care you put in now, the more that should pay dividends later. Your homework this week is to make sure your desk and bed are set up ergonomically properly for you. Then do some body scans over the next week as you go about your business. Does anything hurt? Twinge? Keep track and then consider talking to your preferred medical professional about treatment.

Self-caringly yours,


P.S. – I must make a confession. I went to work sick this week. I was so busy at work with so many important meetings that I powered through what was probably the flu and spent most of the weekend in bed thanks to a hideous chest cold that might be bronchitis. Do what I say and not what I do. You have my permission to say, “I told you so” as if I had stayed at home for a day I may have been able to get ahead of whatever this thing is. And yes, if it’s still bad tomorrow morning, it’s off to the doctor I go.