Is putting on your socks a risky business? Should we all discard socks in favour of flip flops as they seem so much safer? Okay, I’m over dramatising a little. Your morning dressing routine is most likely perfectly safe as are most of your other routines. However I do seem to see people who have inadvertently injured themselves with their socks or trying to catch a trouser leg, why?
Soon after you have woken up your nervous system is awake and refreshed and simply can’t wait to do its job. Which is to protect you. Muscles and joints, however, are a little bit slower to drag themselves into the morning. So you bend over sleepily to grab a sock and your joints slowly creak into action – and here is the problem! The super fast, super enthusiastic sensory nervous system sends an urgent message to your spinal cord “the joints are a bit on the creaky side!” Your spinal cord, bless it, is not much of a thinker – much more for action – so it sends an urgent message to your brain “the joints are a bit on the creaky side!”. However your spinal cord also needs to protect you, it’s one of its only jobs and its going to do it well, so it gives you a hefty dose of pain.
Pain! or not
Pain is designed to protect – it acts as a danger signal that helps us survive. Pain will keep us safe. It is also a blunt instrument and not a very reliable indicator of actual injury.
Eventually your brain gets the message “the joints are a bit on the creaky side!” Most of the time you subconsciously consider this information and decide that of course your joints are a bit creaky. Its first thing in the morning and you’re always a bit creaky when you wake up. Nothing to worry about, so you dismiss the pain and get on with your day and forget all about it.
Why does it sometimes go wrong?
Every now and then though your brain will still be as creaky as your joints – you didn’t sleep well, you are worried about work, your partner is nagging at you… Rather than dismissing the creak you sleepily decide that, actually, you really need to worry about that pain. This is when things often spiral out into a full blown acute episode of severe lower back pain because of a dangerous sock! Once you start to consider that that pain is an indicator of actual danger all your protection armoury will be employed – muscle spasm, hyper vigilance, fear avoidance – the lot.
How to prevent this danger
Perhaps the obvious, and most flip, answer is to put your socks on last. In all honesty we are human, we will be distracted every now and again. Next time it may be the trouser leg that is the issue not your socks. The best way to prevent this type of acute problem is to take some pressure off in the morning. If you find that you are just too stiff to move comfortably first thing start the morning with a gentle warm up: Make yourself a cuppa, prepare your pack lunch, wander around a little. Then go back and get dressed.
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