Local experts advocate well-rounded approach to health | CraigDailyPress.com

Local experts advocate well-rounded approach to health

Michael Neary

Danika Friedley

— When Danika Friedley works with people to manage pain, she helps them to understand the various forces that contribute to that pain. It's the sort of broad understanding that can help people recovering from injuries, as well as people simply trying to maintain good general health.

"The pain processing system is a lot more complicated than the biomedical model makes it seem," said Friedley, a physical therapist with The Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Center.

Friedley, who's earned a doctorate in physical therapy, stressed the role of emotional health when it comes to pain.

"Emotional health is huge in pain management," she said, "and I very often will refer people to seek counseling if it's appropriate."

Friedley said that pain is not always "directly correlated to the size and intensity of an injury." Instead, she explained, it can be related to emotional stress, anger and other factors. Sometimes, when she works with people, she uses cards and other props that illustrate the complexity of a person's pain — and to help them treat it in more comprehensive ways.

The patients Friedley works with have incurred injuries, but she said that the sorts of issues she discusses can apply to others, as well. Around this time of year, she noted, Seasonal Affective Disorder can hit some people hard — and even people who aren't diagnosed with the condition can feel down in the midst of coldness, darkness and restricted mobility.

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"That's when your diet and nutrition and regular exercise are extra important," she said. "Those factors are the most natural ways to get endorphins and (improve) the healthy function of your body."

She mentioned walking laps in the mall to get a person's heart pumping and mood elevated.

"Even though it's a little bit harder for a person to do," she said, "it's even that much more important in the winter if you're having problems with Seasonal Affective Disorder — or even if you don't have a disorder, per se, but you have the winter blues."

Marshall Kraker, a certified athletic trainer with Moffat County High School and a physical therapist aide for The Memorial Hospital at Craig, also noted the emotional impact of exercise.

"A lot of people use that to de-stress and relieve themselves of negative energy," he said.

Kraker said he likes to do a number of different kinds of exercises, to "mix it up" and keep an open mind to new possibilities. But he also said it's often helpful to start simply, with a few basic exercises that can improve physical and emotional well-being.

"I like to simplify," he said. "Instead of giving people a packet of exercises, I give them a few."

Friedley said that even in the cold, and even outside, exercise options exist.

"Often if it's chilly out, it's still sunny here," she said. "A lot of people will still go take walks in the park. You just bundle up."