I love getting emails and Facebook messages from my clients, blog subscribers and fans. And pretty much like clockwork, every week I get at least one "Can You Help My?" message.
Usually it's an email or a phone call from current or former clients who wants to know if I can help their mom, dad, friend, co-worker, husband/wife (you get the idea) ..... get out of some kind of chronic pain.
The "Can You Help My?" message is most often a request for me to somehow intervene or add clout to a conversation they are having with a friend/family or loved one who is stuck in the chronic pain cycle.
Usually the person writing has experienced personal success eliminating chronic pain through corrective exercise themselves, and they desperately want the same thing for their loved one.
And let me tell you, they've tried it all. Cajoled, coaxed, begged, offered to pay for a session, all in the hopes of convincing another that there is another and better solution to their pain problem out there.
First, I have to say, it's always an honor to get these messages. I feel privileged that my experience and expertise is being sought out and my advice requested. I am after all a Corrective Exercise Specialist who specializes in chronic muscle and joint pain relief.
That's precisely what I do day in and out. Help people make the necessary changes in their lives to stop the chronic pain cycle and return to a pain-free life and living. Yes, I believe that people can indeed heal from chronic pain, and often without medication.
I wish it was that easy. You know the saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"? Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. There are so many chronic pain myths and misconceptions out there. You see I can take the time to write out a lengthy response to their questions, and say all the right things to tip the scale and convince their friend or loved one into proactive change. Except it isn't that easy. And that's because overcoming chronic musculoskeletal pain requires personal RESPONSIBILITY and ACTION.
Let me give you an example. Here is an excerpt of a recent email I received.
This is (name removed). I had visited you with my husband, a few years ago. I was telling my (mom/dad/friend) about you and how you use corrective exercise and posture alignment to treat the body. She is now reading the book Pain Free.
We were wondering if the you could help her with the pain she had the last few months related to a herniated disk. She has just completed 3 rounds of injections with not much relief. Do you think posture exercises could help her? I look forward to and appreciate your thoughts.
Here at Pain Free Posture MN we specialize in using a variety of corrective exercise modalities to identify, address and eliminate the root cause of chronic pain. I see all sorts of pain related problems such as:
YES, of course I can help.
Well, honestly, that depends. Does your mom think she can heal? Is she willing to invest time into doing a menu of daily exercise to address the situation? Does she want a quick, temporary fix or a long term solution?
Posture Alignment Therapy (aka The Egoscue Method) can and does certainly help people heal from chronic low back pain. It is one of many modalities that have a well proven success rate. However, it's been my experience that a one-size fits all approach doesn't necessarily work for everyone. There are many therapeutic modalities out there to successfully address the problem herniated disc(s) and resulting pain.
What's most important aside from the method of delivery is first understanding how the body got into this situation in the first place. You can't fix what you can't feel, so how can you realistically change what you're unaware of.
Your body position (posture), and daily movement habits and positions play a huge role in the pain relief equation. In fact, you actually have to start with an entirely different set of questions in order to begin the healing process.
Do you know and understand
If the answer is NO to any one of the above listed questions, you have to start at the beginning. In the above email, the writer was wise to give her mom a book about the connection between body position and how that is directly linked to pain and movement problems.
In order to educate and better explain the link between position and condition (posture vs. pain) I always recommend first reading that book, or blog articles I and others have written on the subject.
To be successful with a corrective exercise program, it is absolutely vital that the person in chronic muscle and joint pain understands the
Yes! I absolutely and positively think that a well designed and implemented corrective exercise program like postural therapy can help alleviate pain from a herniated disk.
When you partner with a Corrective Exercise Specialist who can analyze posture and movement patterns, design, coach and implemented a progressive program to bring the hips, shoulders and spine back to their proper position, you will ultimately relieve chronic back pain, even if you already have a herniated or bulging disk.
The red flag in the message is the statement "just completed 3 rounds of injections with not much relief."
When I read that, it tells me that the current treatment is focused solely on the symptom (herniated disc pain) and not the condition (overall posture which caused the disc to herniate). Aside from acute trauma, lumbar discs herniate because of load joint dysfunction. Injections do not address the root cause of why the disc(s) herniated, they simply try to buy some time by hoping it will reduce inflammation in the area.
In fact, discs are made to herniate. Think of them like a jelly filled donut. If you press down or squeeze one side, it forces the jelly out of the other side. It's a rudimentary example, but in actuality, very similar to what happens when the disk positioned in between your vertebrae is forced to absorb uneven pressure. Eventually there is no other option for the disk except to bulge or rupture.
Injections and surgery are in my opinion, a short-term and temporary solution to the bigger problem because the source of this imbalance is not addressed with either option.
Uneven or unbalanced positioning of the pelvis and spine occur due to imbalances in major joints like the hips and shoulders. Over time, gravity plays a role in this uneven postural position, and further compromises the joint position.
If there is too much or not enough arch, the space between the vertebral disk will be compressed on one side or the other.
Muscles move our bones, and connective tissues help them maintain joint position and tensegrity. If the joints are dysfunctional, muscles become imbalanced. Some are over stimulated to take over an incorrect joint position, and others lose stimulation to maintain the proper length and tension required for you to sit, stand and move properly.
This is how easily bone and joint positions are compromised.
So when it comes to helping alleviate herniated disc pain, the good news is that posture alignment therapy and corrective exercise can easily re-train the load joints like the shoulders, hips, pelvis and spine back into neutral position.
When you provide the body with the right stimulus, it eliminates wear and tear, friction, and uneven pressure and gravitational forces on the disks. As you help the body return to and maintaining a neutral S-curve, weight distribution across all the load joints balances out. The ankles, knees, hips and shoulders regain their proper function which is absolutely necessary to absorb shock from movement and therefore helps alleviate pain and prevent injury.
The body has an amazing ability to heal if you give it the right conditions to repair and renew itself.
So here's where we end up. Right back at the beginning. I took the time to educate and explain how the body got into it's current situation, why the injections didn't work, and laid out the process for eliminating the pain.
Corrective Exercise is a process, NOT a quick fix. It took time to get into the position and situation you are in. It will take some time to address it AND it does require a willingness to change and think/learn about the body from an entirely different mindset.
That means the individual has to take responsibility for changing his/her own outcome in the process by actively engaging in a progressive menu of proper exercise progressions.
So although the Can You Help My email wants me to tell her loved one that yes they can heal from the pain of a herniated disc, the reality is this. Does your friend, family or loved one understand that it will require effort to change in reasoning, response and routine?
If she answered YES to these questions, and she is willing to take responsibility for her healing by making the necessary changes, then YES, Corrective Exercise CAN HELP fix herniated disc(s) and chronic back pain!
Applied information is power! Corrective exercise works, if you're willing to take a chance that perhaps you're not broken after all.
Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Head Photo Credit: Melissa Thome Photography
Author: Deb Preachuk is a Certified Foundation Training & STOTT Pilates Instructor, Corrective Exercise & Posture Specialist, and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.
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