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Cheating’s Easy, Strength is Hard

July 10, 2016

As a newly injured paraplegic who is asked to make the most of what strengths he has in order to return to life as an independent person, there is only one option and that is to cheat. When a body is as intrinsically damaged as that of a paraplegic even the use of the arms is impaired, despite muscular function remaining in those limbs. One of the first jobs in the physio gym is to learn to sit without back support. Weeks of bed rest doesn’t help, but this is not really why it is difficult. Much of the body’s capacity to support itself is missing and so you have to learn to compensate with the strengths you have and this is essentially cheating. You learn to balance that part of you that remains alive on top of the lifeless structure below. Once this balance is achieved, then you learn to use your upper body to perform all sorts of alien manoeuvres in order to find ways to carry on with life.

It is not that this approach is wrong, and in fact it works well and before long you have the capability to look after yourself as an independent person, but it is important to understand the reality of this approach in terms of the bio-mechanics of the body. With extremely depleted intrinsic capacity, you are calling upon the use of muscles that have only limited foundation, so in order for that muscular function to be achieved, foundation is created by collapsing, deforming and locking up the trunk to provide a false foundation upon which muscular function can be based.

The approach works so well that, not only did I throw myself back into life with all sorts of crazy adventures, but three years after my injury I found myself taking on a run down cottage with a large garden and field beyond. For a long time I’d dreamt of a smallholding and here was the chance to live that dream. The problem came when I embarked upon ABR Therapy, which is an approach that builds up true strength by rebuilding the depleted foundation. Not only is finding strength from cheating contrary to the way of ABR, but is counter productive to the therapy process. So now I had a dilemma. Did I give up the dream and give up the outgoing active lifestyle or did I somehow find a compromise. I instinctively knew that ABR Therapy was the way forward, even before I really understood the reality of my injury and the necessary process for recovery, and so had to pursue it, but at the same time I couldn’t give up the dream. Not only is rehabilitation through ABR Therapy a long term strategy, but I’d already spent four and a half years heading in the wrong direction (cheating) and so the process of true recovery was going to be even more protracted. Luckily I’m good at using a damaged body while at the same time being kind to it and living the dream is what’s given me the spirit to carry on at times.

So live the dream I have. I largely renovated a run down cottage, created a garden out of a rat infested rubbish tip and set up a smallholding in the unkempt field beyond. Over the years I have done an enormous amount of physical work, all of which was essentially done by cheating, with the way I use my body, but I have always managed to find ways which are kind on the body and use as little effort as possible. I’m pleased to say that I have also made fantastic progress over the years with ABR Therapy and that progress is accelerating the further into the process I go and my body is really shaping up.

The last few years of waking up deep structures has been truly bringing my body back to life. The long process of rehabilitation is more and more coming to fruition and I am finding strength in the true sense rather than through the cheating I have employed for so long. This has made me realise how easy cheating has been. My body was always fragile from the waist down, but above the waist the locked up structure in many ways gave me a fairly solid frame. Now that my body has opened up and is gaining structural integrity, the spine is once again playing its role as a structural element and the entire skeletal structure has come back into play. Although this has given me real strength of structure upon which to base muscular effort, it has brought with it a new fragileness that I have not been used to. Weaknesses that have been buried for so long are finally in a position to be strengthened, but to begin with come into play as weaknesses and must be nurtured into strength.

Over the last few years I have more and more had to ease off of the hard work to allow my body to settle into its new found strength. I’ve had to get more help to wrestle the sheep, cut and stack the firewood and trim the hedges. There are those that insist I’m just getting old, but I know otherwise and slowly but surely I am moving beyond this period of fragileness and soon I will have more strength than ever with which to run the smallholding. Cheating may have been easy and rediscovering true strength hard, but as I grow strong and live more comfortably I am reminded of how fragile my life really was as a spinally injured paraplegic.

I never regret choosing to live such an active life and keeping up your spirits is so important when you find yourself half the man you used to be, but as a cautionary word to all those paraplegics that I hope will take up this therapy, I strongly urge you not to live quite so on the edge as I have. Not to push the boundaries of physical ability, but to find a less physically demanding way of keeping your spirits up.

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