Let’s Get Physical!: The Importance of Exercise for Back Injuries and in Personal Injury Litigation
After a motor vehicle or other accident, the last thing you might want to do is exercise. For some plaintiffs, however, it is just what the doctor ordered.
Although there are many different ways and modalities for treating neck and back pain, the medical community generally agrees that exercise and stretching is often very important in the rehabilitation process and reducing pain. Although pain often prevents us from getting enough exercise, the lack of exercise can lead to stiffness, weakness, and deconditioning resulting in the worsening of such pain. Physical rehabilitation experts typically advise that movement is necessary to keep the discs, muscles, ligaments, and joints healthy. Physical activity allows diffusion of nutrients into the injured disc space while significant inactivity deprives the injured disc of the nutrition it needs, which can lead to further degeneration and pain. Exercise and activity maintain the exchange of fluids in spinal structures and reduce swelling that naturally occurs in the tissues surrounding an injured disc.
It is recommended that you follow the treatment advice from your trusted caregivers such as your physician, physiotherapist, and chiropractor. In particular regard to exercise and stretching, you may want to consider asking the following questions:
- Should I engage in an active rehabilitation program?
- When should I start?
- What exercises or stretches should I do?
- What is the proper technique?
- How long should I exercise or hold the stretch for (ie. duration)?
- How often should I do them (ie. frequency)?
This ensures you receive the best medical care for the treatment of your injuries. In the grand scheme of things, your health is of paramount importance.
In addition, if you choose to ignore the advice and recommendations of your treatment providers, it may negatively affect your personal injury claim. For instance, in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision of Stevenson v. Thompson, 2017 ABQB 451, the Honourable Mr. Justice A.G. Park reduced general damages for pain and suffering by 20% due to the Plaintiff’s “failure to mitigate” her damages for reasons including the following:
“[The Plaintiff] has not taken to heart much advice to engage in physiotherapy. It has been stressed to her the importance of an active rehabilitation program.
However, she has not followed the advice for a regular exercise program, stretching or physiotherapy. Her medical caregivers have advised her repeatedly that regular exercise and physiotherapy could assist in reducing her chronic myofascial pain.
[The Plaintiff] repeatedly received advice from her medical caregivers to exercise. In effect she ignored it by choosing to relieve her pain through acupuncture and chiropractic manipulative treatment. Such treatment alleviated her pain but it did not assist her in resolving or improving her whiplash injury or her subsequent chronic pain condition. All her medical caregivers, including both Drs. Cosmans [the Plaintiff’s chiropractors], urged her to follow and exercise program. Such advice was reasonable. The quality of the medical advice was sound…
In addition, I note [the Plaintiff] ”failed to take on regular and sustained basis, her prescribed anti-depressants, thyroid medication and sleep medication. The resulting periods of anxiety and depression, sleep deprivation and poor health linked to her fluctuating thyroid levels amplified her chronic pain…
My aforementioned concerns and her failure to mitigate warrant a reduction in the award of general damages. In the circumstances I will reduce her entitlement by 20%.”
So as they say, do what the doctor ordered and take your medicine.