Small changes in self-care can make a big difference in the long run. Will you remember what changed when it’s important?
It Might Start with “Why Me?”
If you’re wondering, “why is this happening to me now,” think about something you may have changed in the past, and don’t remember doing. It’s crazy, but a seemingly small change can result in big problems down the road, if you’re not paying attention. Here’s an example.
Last spring, I bought a new pair of cheap summer sneakers, just something to wear at the shore. They were plain, flat, and comfortable. I decided to skip the drug store orthotic inserts I usually add, thinking, “if my ankle starts hurting, I’ll get a pair.” I started using orthotic soles years ago, to help with ankle pain from a flat arch on my right foot. I ended up really liking those cheap shoes, and I wore them all summer long. I never noticed any pain in my ankle.
In late July I blew out both my knees mowing the lawn one day. A steroid injection and physical therapy were the prescription, and my knees felt somewhat better. But then my right hip started bothering me. I thought it might be my cheap sneakers, and summer was over, so I bought a proper pair of shoes for the fall. Again, my ankle wasn’t bothering me, so I skipped the orthotic insert.
Over the course of Autumn and Winter, my hip pain got worse, to a point where I doubted my stability while walking. On one occasion, my dog darted on the leash, and I lost my balance and fell hard, injuring one hand badly. I was babying my right hip all the time. I was in constant pain and becoming depressed.
I saw the doctor for another steroid injection, oral steroids, and later muscle relaxers, none of which solved the problem. But one thing’s for sure: my ankle didn’t bother me at all.
Take Time to Think About What Changed
One day, feeling almost hopeless, I wracked my brain to try and figure out what might be causing the problems with my hip, and I remembered the cheap shoes. Then I remembered the orthotic inserts. I knew I’d thrown out an old set, but did I keep one, just in case? Yes! I found a beat-up pair in the back of my closet, and put them in my shoes, to see if they helped.
It was amazing. I immediately regained my walking stability, no more fear of falling with each step. And the hip pain dropped significantly, right away. It felt sore from past abuse, but I could feel that the constant tug on my sore muscles was gone. Every step felt like a dream for about a day and a half. Then, of course, the opposing muscles started screaming because they were being asked to work again. That’s OK; the remodeling hurts, but it feels nothing like the ongoing damage. Things will settle in, soon. Meanwhile, I feel much better.
You May Find Other Lost Treasures
Several times along the way I tried this “what changed” routine, and I came up with a few other things before I hit on the inserts. The best was, I remembered a set of stretches I had dropped when I had to quit the gym during the COVID shutdown. That was great to recall, and they’re back in the workout, but they didn’t really help.
The Key is to Keep On It
The small lesson here is, if you are wearing orthotics and they’ve helped in the past, don’t stop unless you and your medical team have a plan!
But I think the real lesson is that small changes you make in your self-care can make a big difference in the long run. I still don’t know the best way to keep track of what changed, or most importantly how to associate the changes with new outcomes. But I know it’s important to keep paying attention, and to keep reviewing how you feel now, versus before. Sometimes it’s something you’re doing that’s causing the changes. Maybe it’s something you’re not doing. Harder still, maybe it’s due to something you’ve never done (but should have). Some cause-and-effect relationships are easier to see than others. You must keep thinking, what could I do better, what could I do again, and what changed, and you just might identify your root cause.