Taking small steps, and stretching, to prevent big problems

Taking small steps, and stretching, to prevent big problems

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If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, what should we be preventing?

Well, we all brush our teeth. At least, we do most of the time, assuming we haven’t relaxed under the covers too long on a cold night and haven’t allowed ourselves to drift off to a wonderful, warm place where we don’t have to worry about meetings, tests, social anxiety, or delayed trains the next day.

Did we also floss? That’s a ridiculous question for those of us who have seen the 1992 movie Prelude to a Kiss. At the end of the film, Julius, played by Sydney Walker, has returned to his body after switching with Meg Ryan on her wedding day. An older man, Julius asks if he can give the young couple a piece of advice. “Floss,” he advises sagely.

Okay, so, what else do we prevent? We change the oil in our cars, or maybe a service station does that. They also probably check our brakes, realign our wheels, and check all our other fluids. That’s all good and seems necessary. How often we do that depends on our tradition and our comfort level with our vehicles.

Then, there’s our bodies. Insurance plans seem to cover the cost of an annual physical. The doctor asks us about any changes, takes some samples, and gets back to us, reminding us to eat better, to sleep better and to exercise more often. Those visits can either be a source of great pride, as we walk in noticeably lighter than we were last year, or a source of frustration, as the weight we lost the year before seems to have boomeranged back to us.

For our bodies, we can also take some preventive steps. I recently endured some lower back problems. I always thought the one advantage of being on the shorter side was that I wouldn’t have to worry about the bad backs some of the tall people of the world suffer. Wrong. My lower back was so stiff that climbing out of a car took much longer than it should, while walking down steps or a slight incline caused me to wince.

My chiropractor helped relieve that pain and gave me some back exercises, which I now do semi-regularly. Okay, well, I don’t do them as often as I brush my teeth, but I do take some time to stretch and strengthen my lower back.

When I was young and playing sports, I used to arrive at a field and play baseball, basketball or anything else and immediately start running at top speed. I barely stretched because I couldn’t wait to play.

Fast forward to today and the true weekend warrior in me, who has endured a groin strain and a partial tear of my rotator cuff, requires at least 10 to 15 minutes of stretching.

As with most life lessons, we become more aware of pitfalls and potholes after we’ve fallen into them. My experience with kidney stones means that I barely go a waking hour without drinking a cup of water. When the doctor told me that half of all kidney stone patients return within five years, I immediately decided I wanted to be in the other half, so I’m drinking water constantly.

I’m sure there are other house items we should maintain, like heaters, air conditioners, dishwashers, refrigerators and other appliances. After all, even though so many of those run for long periods of time without needing any service, they probably won’t require anything major if we give them that extra ounce of preventive attention.