One of the greatest challenges of dealing with limited mobility is maintaining your MEDS. This simple acronym is a favorite of spine and bone doctors everywhere, and you’ll probably encounter it multiple times from many different healthcare professionals. If you’ve never heard of MEDS, it stands for medicine, exercise, diet and sleep. These are considered the cornerstones of healthy recovery and chronic pain management. Even if you’re already at maximum recovery, keeping MEDS in mind can help you deal with the ups and downs life may throw your way.
In a time when 25.4 million people misuse pain medication, it may seem strange to remind patients to take their medicines. Still, many of us resist medication primarily because we are worried about the possibilities of addiction or withdrawal symptoms. Ethical doctors only prescribe medication when the benefits outweigh the potential risks for their patients.
If you’re unsure whether or not you need medication, get a second opinion, but never stop taking pain, inflammation or other medicine cold turkey. Always take it exactly as prescribed. It may seem like simple advice, but friends and family who know and love you know when you’re “off your meds,” even if they may not know precisely why you’re acting so odd.
Limited mobility means thinking about exercise in a whole new way, but exercise can do wonders for lower back pain and flexibility. Individuals who spend plenty of time in a wheelchair can still use flexible resistance bands or free weights to maintain upper body strength, core stability and overall flexibility. Lower-body exercises may include manipulation of limbs to increase blood flow or stretches and basic calisthenics for toning and to prevent atrophy.
Whatever exercise you do, whether it’s an active period at the gym or a brisk game of ping-pong with the kids, put your all into it and pay attention to how you feel. At the end, you’re likely to be exhausted, but take the time to recover and your body will thank you for the attention in the long run.
You probably already know that eating well helps you stay fit, which in turn helps manage chronic pain, inflammation and many of the negatives associated with limited mobility. Not everyone knows how to do it, however, especially on a limited budget or with limited time and energy to spend cooking. Work with a doctor to create a diet plan that works for you.
Many meal-delivery companies can provide everything you need for a heart-healthy diet that leaves you feeling full while providing the energy to power through daily activities. You may also benefit from switching to meal-replacement supplements during work periods or other busy times and preparing only one meal each day to conserve energy. Whatever you decide, stick to it and monitor your weight closely. Focus on nutrition and adjust your overall calorie intake to gain or lose weight as needed.
Your body needs time to rest and recover. Even if it feels like you aren’t nearly as active as before, the quality of your sleep goes a long way towards determining how you feel. If you don’t get enough sleep, try going to bed earlier, using blackout curtains to block out light and removing screens (laptops, smartphones, etc.) from where you can easily see or access them in the bedroom.
A sleep study can help determine why you are having trouble falling or staying asleep. Common issues may be addressed with snoring exercises and other home remedies, but surgery or the use of medical devices may be needed for the most serious cases. Don’t neglect this important part of your care, however, as a lack of sleep can negatively impact all of the other elements of any MEDS care plan.
Taking these four elements as a whole, you should work with your doctor to tailor a plan specific to your needs. Every person with limited mobility is an individual, and we all have different interests and abilities. Put MEDS to work for you and see for yourself the difference it can make.
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