16 Mar Get Moving – The Importance of Exercise for the Burn Survivor
By all accounts, exercise is one of the most essential interventions that can help a burn survivor regain what they lost prior to the injury, combat subsequent complications, and ensure a successful long-term recovery. It’s a way back to your “personal ground zero” — the independent life you had before the burn injury. The one where you made all the choices, and they were not all made for you.
Not surprisingly, it takes a lot of hard work to get back to where you were in the first place. To begin with, some of the complications you need to overcome were caused by a lengthy hospital stay. After an extended hospital stay, a burn survivor will experience a loss of muscle mass and flexibility. Scarring can make it difficult and painful to move joints. Additional complications from pain, itching, and fatigue can pose real barriers to recovery. All of these pose psychological challenges leading to depression, self-consciousness, negative body image, fear of being seen in public — you name it. Even the mere thought of exercise seems like it will only make matters worse.
But the reality is that regular exercise can be immensely beneficial to the burn survivor. No matter what kind you choose, exercise is a natural pain reliever. Feeling less physical pain eases depression, relieves stress, and opens the mind to an acceptance of new possibilities.
Leaving the hospital means leaving an important support system. It is important to transition from the hospital to home with a good exercise regimen in place, and your medical team’s best recommendations for what can make you most safe and comfortable during the process. You already know the basics: that hydration and sun protection are important, but you may also need to wear pressure garments, for instance. Any exercise plan for anyone involves motivation, organization, and certainly adequate resources. Most physical therapists suggest slow, steady stretching and strengthening movement patterns like Yoga as an initial form of exercise. The main thing is finding a form of exercise that you want to do. Whatever form of exercise you choose – yoga, Zumba, bike riding — can be adapted to your level of fitness. Just do whatever speaks to you – as best you can. Move something! Following up with your medical team on a regular basis can help you make any adjustments to your program.
In addition to your medical team, the support of your peers and family members can be an invaluable tool in your recovery. Peers, especially those who have been through a burn injury, can help you through any and all mental and physical obstacles. Family members can be your most staunch advocates. While they may not have experienced a burn injury, they have faith in in you and your ability to overcome the injury, and they will not give up on you. Burn survivors who have the support and encouragement of others, have the best long-term outcomes.
Whatever you can do, at whatever level you can do it, is good for your body, mind and soul. Think back to your time in the hospital when there was nothing you could control. You were powerless to decide what you were going to eat, what time you were going to eat it, and sometimes even what was on the television. Total loss of autonomy resulted in total frustration. Your personal exercise program is one thing you can completely control. It’s another giant step forward in reclaiming your independence, renewing your quality of life, and in resuming the life you had before your burn injury.
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To learn more about attorney Robert A. Brenner, please visit his website www.brennerlaw.com