Exercise & Pain Management – Feature Pitch

Over the last year, how many emails have you received from friends who are running a marathon for charity, or cycling across the country to raise awareness for a cause?

Extreme sports, such as the ironman triathlons, ultra marathons, multi-day cycles and free running have exploded in popularity in recent years. From climbing the corporate ladder during the week, to running an ironman triathlon at the weekend, young professionals are increasingly participating in extreme sports to escape from the stresses of the hectic workweek.

Have these thrill seeking adventures become the antidote to the stresses of working life? Yet Dr Jannie Van Der Merwe is asking us to consider whether our bodies are built for this. Physical activity has demonstrated it can improve health and reduce the risk of developing certain diseases. However, we all have a limit.

Dr Jannie Van Der Merwe has based his career around this idea for the last 20 years. As Psychologist in Pain Management at King Edwards VII’s Hospital, Dr Van Der Merwe has seen first-hand the health effects that this new phenomenon has on many young professionals. Dr Van Der Merwe says, “Many of my patients are London professionals who work for FTSE 100 companies, with high-pressure jobs and never enough sleep. They are used to living limitless lives, seven days a week, but many are unaware of the limitations of their body.”

With over 20 years’ experience as a Consultant Psychologist both in the private and public sector, Dr Van Der Merwe has attended to countless numbers of these professionals-by-week, athletes-by-weekend. Many of his patients believe that suffering from muscle pains and injuries after high endurance sports are normal, so any pain they feel is usually ignored.  Dr Van Der Merwe emphasises that there are many underlying factors that contribute to the complexity of an individual’s pain experience. Pain isn’t just a physical sensation; it also has
biological, psychological, and emotional effects. If not dealt with in the correct manner, it can cause burnout, stress and anxiety – each of which hold no value in an intense working environment.

Dr Van Der Merwe says, “I want to change the way people perceive pain management. Many young professionals possess this belief in self-efficacy. They tend to think of themselves as invincible and too busy to be slowed down by any sort of pain. So, they take a few tablets and carry on.”

Dr Van Der Merwe argues that many people are poor judges of their own pain and therefore overlook the potential long-term effects on their health.  Dr Van Der Merwe provides psychological coaching to assist his patients in developing skills to maintain their performance, wellbeing and resilience.

Everyone’s pain threshold may differ, however it’s important you don’t push your body further than it is meant to go. Humans are built for endurance, but natural born athlete or not, everyone can be a victim of wear and tear.

King Edward VII’s Hospital

King Edward VII’s Hospital is an independent, acute private Hospital located in Marylebone, central London.  The Hospital delivers the highest standards of private medical care in London, supported by outstanding nurses, first class staff and hand-picked consultants, all of whom are recognised leaders in their fields.  In our most recent Patient Satisfaction Survey, the Hospital received 97.7% for overall satisfaction.  Full details of the survey can be found at www.kingedwardvii.co.uk/patient_survey.cfm

King Edward VII’s Hospital is open to all.

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