I was working with a patient today, a man in his late 80’s, when a situation presented itself that made me stare the future squarely in the face (possibly). I had him down on the floor on one knee, supported by pillows, to stretch his psoas muscle. The iliopsoas muscle connects to the thigh bone, and goes through the hip to connect with T1 through L4. As a result, this muscle crosses 7 joints, and can be a culprit for several orthopedic concerns. This muscle brings the trunk towards the legs or vice versa. Consequently, it is shortened when sitting, and we all do plenty of that. When this muscle gets short and tight, it puts an enormous amount of strain on the back and causes the hip to tilt forward, as well as some degree of rotation. One reason people get so stooped over as they get older is that this muscle, among others, gets so short and tight that it would take someone with the strength of Hercules to stand straight. Stooping is one of this particular client’s major concerns, and why we were on the floor trying to correct one of it’s causes. 

As we were stretching the iliopsoas, his knee slipped off the towels supporting it and it frightened my patient, to say the least. We had done this stretch many times in the past, and this was the first time it occurred. Also, the individual involved has had a series of falls over the past two years, two of which landed him in the hospital recently, not because he was injured, but because he couldn’t get up off the floor. Today, when this happened, he totally lost his composure, shrieking about not being able to get up and totally flailing his arms and cussing, even though I had him safely in my arms, supporting him. (His reaction reminded me of an instance a long time ago, when I saved a drowning friend when I was 15; he flailed and clung to me and almost took me underwater with him).  During this short period, I had a glimpse of what could be the future for any of us (especially for those of us who don’t exercise), and it didn’t look very promising. Being on the floor and not being able to get up! Hard for me to imagine, but here I was, living it through the eyes of my patient, who was absolutely terrified. However, the future  doesn’t have to be this way for any of us. Personally, I’ll do everything in my power to prevent it from happening. How? I’ll  keep up with my exercise routine, even if at times it seems unpleasant or inconvenient (I’ll remember this day for motivation when needed).

This patient, I’ll call him Fred, was a highly successful Wall Street attorney, a man whose intellect and veracity helped him climb to the top in his professional world. But he neglected to do the one thing along the way, which probably would have prevented this calamity-he didn’t take the time to stay strong; to give his body what it needs in order to function properly. He hired me a couple of years ago, after a fall,  to play ‘catch up’ . However, “catch up” takes a lot longer when you are in your 80’s, and only doing exercise when I see him, which is 2x/week. Not impossible, but a much higher hill to climb, than if he had a least maintained a little strength along the way and had a better work ethic. Looking at the big picture, exercise doesn’t take all that much time, and it sure would have helped in this instance. True, accidents are unpredictable and can happen at any time along life’s journey, but staying strong really increases your odds of aging gracefully. Please, take the time to invest in yourself, and reap the dividends. Get up off the couch, AND the floor.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.