Monday, October 21, 2013

The Kung Fu of Healing

As some of you know, I have been doing some physical therapy for a recent knee injury. I am of course, getting acupuncture for my knees, but I’m worried about being able to ski with my family this winter. While I was waiting in the lobby, I observed two other patients in the clinic. (The identifying characteristics of these patients have been changed.)

The first one was a young woman who, like me, was just starting her therapy. Her physical therapist was giving her suggestions on lifestyle changes, such as a different way to get out of her car. After each suggestion she explained in a loud voice why that wouldn’t work for her, or that she “had already tried that” or doing things that way sounded impossible. “Gads, what a handful!” I thought to myself. 

The second patient was a little old man, dressed as dapper as could be. He checked in, but instead of taking a seat in the waiting area, he hung up his hat and scarf. Walking with obvious pain, he got right into the “gym” area of the clinic and started working on the exercises that had been assigned to him.

My turn came. My therapist interviewed me, conducted a physical exam, and gave me some exercises to try. With each visit she gives me new things to do. The therapy that used to take me five minutes a night to do is now taking twenty five. Last night I thought to myself: “Going to all these appointments is a lot of bother... I thought I would feel better by now... This is taking a lot of time... This is hard work!” 

Then, I caught myself. 

Yes, going to all these appointments is a lot of bother, but if I want to be able to continue to work and ski without pain, then I’m going to have to follow through with my therapy. Yes, it’s a nice idea to think that I could go to physical therapy a couple of times and all my problems would vanish. However, as my therapist is showing me, my injury has been precipitated by a lifetime of bad habits. Bad habits take time to correct. And, yes, this is hard work! 

Healing - is - hard - work. 

Kung fu is a phrase that most people identify with martial arts. In reality, Kung fu translates roughly as “good hard work”. According to Wikipedia it is “a Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete”. So, there is the kung fu of martial arts, the kung fu of acupuncture,  the kung fu of skateboarding and the kung fu of healing. 

We would all like to take the magic pill and no longer be bothered by our ailments, but health is not like ordering at the drive through. It’s more like the cooking in Grandma’s kitchen: low and slow. Which patient did I want to resemble? The little old man who was committed to his healing or the woman who made every excuse for why this wasn’t going to work? 

Do you want to get better? I encourage you to do the following: 

  1. love your body in spite of its flaws
  2. have patience with yourself
  3. be consistent with treatment
  4. be willing to change your habits

I have committed myself to the kung fu of healing and I encourage you to do the same!

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