When I was really young, you know those years when your mom walks you through your nighttime routine before putting you to bed; she had me do the usuals. I brushed my teeth, got in my pj’s, washed my face; but I did something more. She made me start putting on lotion, and not just my face and hands. I lotion my legs and most importantly she says; my neck. She had me do this so that my skin would look and feel younger when I was older, so that I would develop good habits of health care early. She taught me this through the method of repetition. If you do something over and over enough it becomes a habit. For example, tonight if you tried to brush your teeth with the opposite hand then you normally do you will feel really uncomfortable and have to think about what you are doing.
Why does this matter? Well our lives become full of routines and habits. Many habits we make in our early yearsduring a time when we feel invincible and see endless amounts of time ahead. Older people look back and try to tell us things they wish they knew or did when they were younger and we often ignore them, much to our own peril! So a recent small thing for me, made me see into that future.
As a young female rider I am surrounded at the barnsmostly with older ladies. I have heard them through the years all talking about their back pain. I generally felt empathy for them but felt in my youthful arrogance that really their pain was just because they were old. Sorry! But really it is the sport,riding puts a lot of stress on your joints, particularly the back, hips and knees.
I recently had some sacroiliac joint pain with slight inflammation. This was not an injury but a really slight nuisance that I look at as a blessing wake up call. At 18, I never really thought ahead to how to prolong my riding career hopefully into my 70’s! I was really interested in the now. Sure we think about our horse’s health. In fact, most of us make jokes about how they get better health care than we do. Maybe we sacrifice for them for the sport, or for our deep love of them, or because we want to prolong their seemingly shorter careers. For whatever reason this pain showed me that I have been taking my health and physical abilities for granted.
I had some slight inflammation and pain in my sacroiliac joint. I iced the inflammation, and rested. I thought this would be just another ache that would pass in a day or two. When it extended, as you know, I began to do my usual research and to look to many ways to change my routine and my lifestyle to minimize these types of stresses and strains in my life. The sacroiliac joint (hip joint) pain and inflammation can be caused,according to webMD, by any condition that alters the normal walking pattern and increases stress on the SI joint. Well that describes riding to a tee. This is particularly true for those of us who ride multiple horses in a day. You know that feeling when you slide off the last one and you have to get your ‘legs back’ to walk! Even non-horse people make jokes about our bowed legs and funny way of walking. By the way, SI problems often manifest themselves as lower back pain with an ‘indeterminate’ cause.
I am only 18 and obviously not a doctor. I just wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned these lastweeks working to plan a long and healthy career. First, there are several general health changes I have made as a result. I have dramatically altered my core training. When I get back from the RDHMC I have signed up for regular classes in Yoga and Pilates! The chances of these types of pains can be lowered with core development. All the doctors I went to the MD’s, Chiropractors, physios, massage therapists etc. all told me to do more stretching exercises, and not just right before we get in the saddle. I now do them at home twice a day as well. The ones on the rolling tubes and balls are fun but tough. I like those.
One of the products I found to be helpful was my sacroloc“stabilizing orthosis” from Bauerfind. It is basically a really light belt brace. I wore it most of the day at first. Now I wear it when I feel twinges. I should wear it at night to sleep. I sleep on my belly with my leg bent like I am on the mounting block getting up on a horse and the weight puts pressure on my hip. As of yet, I will admit I find it disturbs my sleep. I am working on perhaps finding a lighter, smaller one although the one I have was, as of three weeks ago, the smallest and lightest I could find for under $200.00. My Grandmother made me (I admit against deep protests) use a special pillow to sit on. I use it when I drive and when I sit to watch lessons. It made me feel silly at first. She actually had to slip in under me as I sat down for me to even try it. I was that stubborn about looking and feeling like an old person. After a few minutes in the car and realizing it altered the level of pain I was feeling, I am a convert. I now go back to the car to get it before sitting down to watch an hour lesson. She also bought me at Walmart a HoMedics pocket electrode pack. It is similar to the electrode treatment for your muscles you get at the chiropractor. It is small enough to put in my purse and if I feel my muscles tightening I can really easily put it on for a few minutes to loosen that tension. I really like it.
Well I hope this helps a few of you to experience less pain. I hope it helps a few of you young people to take a look at your own health management. We may feel invincible but we aren’t. We may think health issues are for old people after years in the saddle but they aren’t. In fact, if you are like me and want to have years in the saddle, why not make a few changes now to not be in that same pain thirty years from now. I know it is hard to think about putting in the effort for something you might nothave to worry about, but I for one want to make those years as enjoyable and successful as these!
Have a wonderful Holiday Season! I send you all my best wishes and hope you all have a pain free New Year!