Last Monday evening I finally took the plunge into water aerobics. I've been pretty resistant to the idea for a while because it's always something that comes up when well meaning people want to try to make me feel better and fix my spine. When an injury is new and hasn't migrated into the land of disability, some of this stuff can be helpful. Maybe someone hasn't heard that water aerobics can be a good gentle form of exercise. If yoga is suggested, maybe the person dismissed it thinking you have to be extremely flexible to do it. Insert other form of exercise or therapy, and maybe that suggestion will give the newly injured person an idea that may genuinely help them. I get that.
However, when the injury is chronic, this advice can be annoying at best, potentially patronizing, and sometimes downright offensive. I know people generally mean well, but please trust me when I tell you that I've tried physical therapy and it didn't help, that belly dance actively aggravates the nerves in my spine, and that the structural instability in my spine makes swimming really painful. Telling me about the wonders of acupuncture can show a class or income divide (if anyone wants to donate money for me to try acupuncture, I'll totally give it a go!). Please trust me when I tell you I've tried damn near everything and please let me deal with my injury/disability in the way I find best for my body, my life, and my circumstances.
Back on track though, I managed to piss my spine off royally doing water aerobics. I didn't pay attention to the weird feeling I got when I was doing the shallow water (4ft deep) running, and was almost in tears at the end of it because of a combination of pain, numbness in my legs, and an emotion akin to humiliation that I had "failed" another "good for bad backs" exercise option. I then had to deal with a well-meaning instructor who also held the belief that water aerobics was good for people in my injury category....and me, being the good U.S. Midwestern person I am, just nodded and smiled, and hoped that I could limp to the locker room quickly before I started to cry.
I know people don't give advice out of malice (usually...weight loss advice to fat folks is many times malicious and condescending, so there are exceptions to every rule), but please, just offer support. On the same vein, my spine has been broken for five years, so saying that you hope I feel better feels awful. Some days I'm better, some days I'm worse, some days I'm in more pain and having less nerve issues, some days vice versa. Some days I know when a certain activity will make my spine unhappy, and on some days just living makes it worse. Chronic pain and neurological issues can feel like a random rollercoaster....and while there is a "better," it's usually not a predictable state. Like I said, I know that folks mean well...but how about a nice "I'm happy to see you" and "take care/see you later"?