Managing Musculoskeletal Pain & Recovery During Back-to-School Season

Living with a musculoskeletal condition, pain and immobility is difficult at the best of times. Then add: a global pandemic, being a parent, and having kids return back to school (or attending class from home) and it's downright overwhelming. Although easier said than done, it's important to prioritize your recovery. The more you can work through these added stressors, and take time out for yourself, the faster your return-to-normal will be. 

Read on as we share how you can stay focused on your musculoskeletal recovery during the challenging back-to-school season.

According to the American Psychological Association, "46% of parents say their average stress level related to the coronavirus pandemic is between 8 and 10 on a 10-point scale".  

Before Anything, Manage Your Stress

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In order to recover and manage pain, you have to get your stress in check. In a survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of all parents say that their stress levels related to the pandemic are high. 71% of those surveyed cited "managing their kids' online learning as a significant source of stress". With school back in session, alongside the added stressors or the pandemic, plus musculoskeletal pain, your stress is likely to be very high.

Stress and pain are inextricably linked, with an estimated "85% of patients with chronic pain affected by stress and depression." In order to get pain under control you need to focus on your mental and emotional health, starting with controlling stress levels.

Dr. Spiegel, the Director of the Center on Stress & Health, shares steps he refers to as "F.A.C.E.S" to help combat stress associated with pain.

Here are the F.A.C.E.S Stress Management Techniques to Employ:

  • [F]ace rather than flee: Actively working through your recovery in a constructive manner, one step at a time, helps to reduce stress. By avoiding recovery and not making time for yourself, you're actually adding to stress.

  • [A]lter your perception: Reframe your recovery and focus on the activities that you can do. Although there are a lot of things to be stressed and overwhelmed by, listing what you're grateful for and celebrating small victories can help you turn a mental corner.

  • [C]ope actively: There is no situation you can't do something about. Chipping away at your recovery, bit by bit, and carving out time to take a break and focus on yourself will cut stress.

  • [E]xpress Emotion: Your emotions help you figure out what's important and what isn't. If you're feeling overwhelmed, angry, frustrated or annoyed by something, this could be what matters most. Tell your support system how you feel and what is causing extra stress, and work to address those priority items.

  • [S]ocial Support: We can handle stress a lot better when we do it together. Ask for help and involve your children in your recovery.

Make Daily Time For Yourself

With your kids heading back to school, digitally or in-person, your time can feel stretched even thinner. Getting kids ready for classes, assisting with homework, and getting used to the new daily pace is taxing. However, in order to be at your best, practicing the discipline of putting yourself and your musculoskeletal recovery first, is critical. 

Although spare time may be scarce, employing time management and sticking to 10-15 minutes of dedicated recovery each day will fast-track healing. Healing from a musculoskeletal condition or surgery is a marathon, not a sprint. Taking small, focused steps each day will accumulate and push you past the finish line. 

Here are some tips to making daily PreHab or ReHab recovery time:

  • Build a Daily Routine. Choose a time each day for your daily musucoloskeletal PreHab (surgery preparation) or ReHab program (recovery and avoidance). If spending 10-15 minutes a day on your recovery fits best first-thing in the morning (after coffee, duh!), then stick with this routine. If taking time out at lunch for your recovery helps to break-up the day, do this. If you've got extra support in the evening, this could be your time to shine.

  • Chip Away. The only bad musculoskeletal recovery is no focused, consistent recovery at all. If you can't fit in a complete 30 minute physical therapy session each day, spend 10-15 minutes. If you're using PeerWell's digital musculoskeletal recovery, you can break-up your daily plan into smaller bite-sized chunks. All of your dedicated work will add up.

  • Prioritize High-Impact Recovery Activities. Certain physical therapy exercises may be more impactful than others. If you're suffering from back pain, walking could trump all other elements of recovery. Don't save the "meat" until the end of the day when you may be too tired. Start your daily, focused recovery with the most impactful elements first.

  • Involve Your Inner Circle. Are you a single parent? In a partnership? Live near close family or friends? Let your support network know that you need to make time for your recovery. When possible, involve your children in the appropriate elements or activities recommended for your musculoskeletal condition's healing.

Manage Pain with "The 5 Pillars"

To recovery fully and completely, there are a myriad of different elements that should be part of this process. Musculoskeletal healing and addressing the root cause of pain, means actively participating in PreHab and ReHab. We categorized the various elements of the recovery as "the five pillars of health". The five pillars of musculoskeletal recovery are: Physical Therapy, Life Management, Nutrition, Pain & Wellness, Health Literacy. 

1. Physical Therapy & Exercises: Low-impact exercises improve your strength, range of motion, and overall musculoskeletal condition. Maintain daily prescribed exercises for your condition and if you're able, get outside for fresh air walking or activity.

2. Stress, Sleep & Pain Management: Reduce anxiety and stress with mindfulness and breathing techniques. If you're a PeerWell user drug-free pain management is included in regular lessons.

3. Diet & Nutrition: Small diet changes can promote healing, improve blood sugar control and reduce inflammation. Eating superfoods, nutrients, and making recipes that'll give your body what it needs to kick recovery into high-gear, also helps to combat pain.

4. Health Literacy: The more you know about your musculoskeletal condition and how recovery works, the more empowered you will be in making the best choices for healing.

5. Social & Environmental Preparation: You'll need to make some adjustments to your life (and environment) in order to recover quickly and comfortably from home---especially with kids at home more. If you're having surgery, getting organized before the procedure is necessary for reducing stress.

Involve Kids in Your Recovery

We're not saying that part of your kid's online schooling or after-school activities should be learning to spell "musculoskeletal". However, certain elements of your well-rounded recovery can be team efforts. Involving your family in your recovery will not only help you carve out time to do so, but can offer greater unified support. 

Here are some ideas for involving your kids in your complete musculoskeletal recovery:

- Walk at Lunch/ After School: Depending on your musculoskeletal injury or procedure recovery, walking could be integral to healing. Making a point to walk with the family can be a benefit to everyone.

- Make Recipes. Eating for your recovery to reduce inflammation, and give the nutrients you need to bounce back is a must. Choosing a health recipe from your PreHab program is an activity that you can involve the kids in. Hey, if it's relevant, it could even double as a "hands on" lesson for math (measuring), science (baking), or health class.

- Mindfulness/ Meditation. A proven method for pain management is employing mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness offers a  new set of tools to deal with pain, anxiety and negative experiences.

- Independent Activities. Build-in 10-15 minutes of "quiet time" for kids to take on an activity of their choice. While they read, complete homework, or play quietly, you can focus on you. Letting kids be on their own, and teaching them that you need time to yourself too, is a health boundary to create.

Are you using PeerWell for your pain management and faster recovery? Are you an employer, case manager, or healthcare provider who wants to learn more about PeerWell's at-home recovery program? Click here and learn more.

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Hi, I'm Grace. I cover all topics for your hip & knee replacement needs. You may remember me from such titles as: "Diabetes & Joint Replacement 101" & "Sex After a Joint Replacement". Read on, mate.

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