As a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I believe that the human body has an innate capability to heal itself. Aside from acute trauma or accident related injuries, most chronic pain sufferers in this country are dealing with problems that stem from poor posture.
Compromises in joint position, muscle balance and resulting movement function are a leading cause of symptomatic pain. Western medicine has become a specialized and symptom specific practice. Your back hurts, we treat the back. You have knee pain, we treat the knee.
You might be given prescriptions or over the counter medications to block pain signals, told to rest or stop a particular movement or exercise entirely, see a chiropractor or request physical therapy on the area. All of these modalities certainly can and do help for a period of time. But if it's only a symptom focused plan, then you can be sure the pain or episode will return because the underlying root of the problem hasn't been addressed. Sure enough, you get back to doing life as it was before, and something goes awry. The old pain is back, and so begins the chronic pain cycle.
Have you ever wondered why?
Everyday I have the privilege to work with clients of all ages and abilities who are struggling and stuck in the chronic pain cycle. There is no greater joy than partnering with a person like this because my perspective of the body is often one specialists and symptom focus treatment program fail at.
The worst cases come in hopeless, fearful, and skeptical that I can help. Honestly, sometimes working with me is the "last stop on the milk train" so to speak.
In general, most are just sad, often depressed and downright discouraged they can't do the activities of daily living and athletics that give them joy, praying that corrective exercise is the final solution that changes their situation for the better.
The ability to overcome common chronic muscle and joint pain without medication, manipulation or surgery IS possible when you look at the bigger picture of human movement and proper postural positioning.
Say you are a person of with chronic low back pain. Instead of treating back pain symptomatically (doing exercises that focus on just the back), I can guarantee you that the pelvis is sitting out of position (tilt, elevation, and rotation) and this stems from muscle imbalances that go all the way from the feet/ankles upward through the kinetic chain. Properly assessing the joint position and corresponding muscle imbalances is VITAL to truly addressing the problem.
The body isn't a collection of separate pieces, muscles and parts. It works as a whole and therefore, must be treated as such.
If you only treat the pain and symptomatic area without correcting underlying joint and muscle imbalances going up and down stream, I can guarantee that symptomatic pain will eventually return. It's only a matter of time. On the flip side chronic muscle and joint pain is easy to resolve once imbalances are corrected in your kinetic chain.
The body CAN heal itself.....
as stated earlier, you are more than just a body. To truly overcome chronic muscle and joint pain for good, it takes MORE than just a CES's ability to assess your posture and create a corrective exercise protocol suited to your unique needs.
The reality is, that in order to fully heal, YOU (the client) must actively participate in a new paradigm of healthcare. Stated simply, I'm am here here to coach, educate, and share information about how your body is currently working versus how it should be working. But I am not in charge of your recovery. My most important role is to empower YOU to take RESPONSIBILITY for your healing.
As a CES, I believe that my clients know the most about their bodies. However, I recognize that you can't fix what you can't feel, or are simply unaware of.
My job is to assess your posture and function relative to it's functional design, see where there are joint and muscle imbalances that need to be addressed and then create a progressive program of corrective exercises for you to do. Sounds simple right? I'd love that it were just that.
Restoring your joint position, muscle balance and improving your posture all do wonders, but if you've dealt with chronic pain for a significant amount of time, everything about you, (think mind, body, and spirit) have been affected by your pain. Your thought life, your workouts and activities of daily living, even your relationships and the way you interact with others during the day.
Chronic pain is a vicious thing. Once triggered, it affects you in all aspects of your being, and that is why successful healing requires addressing the body as a whole, from a physical, psychological and emotional perspective.
Identifying what you continuously think and act on in regards to your chronic pain situation is an critical KEY in unlocking your ability to either fully heal or remain stuck in the chronic-pain cycle.
In my experience, once chronic pain sets in and it's ugly bedfellows arrive (fear, doubt, skepticism, anger, sadness, depression), the connection between thoughts and actions is affected in a powerful and often debilitating way.
I grew up surrounded with a powerful biblical idiom. "Out of the heart the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). Basically, that words and thoughts meditated on AND spoken out loud have POWER and affect our actions and habits. This concept is well documented the scientific community as well. Psychology (Self-Fulfilling Prophecy), Sociology (The Looking Glass Self), and in pioneering research on the subject of Neuroplasticity (Train Your Brain to Beat Pain) as well.
So in addition to the technical aspects of my job, I believe it is critical to actively LISTEN to the words and phrases my clients speak over themselves. I look for what I call "red flag" statements like:
- I can't do (insert action)
- There's no hope for me
- I'm broken
- I'm to to old
- This is as good as it will get
- I was told I will never (insert action) again
- It's my genetics. I was born this way
- I've been to everyone and tried everything to get a handle on my pain. Nothing works.
- I don't think you can help me
I love to challenge those thoughts. My response is usually some variation of:
- Do you really believe that? Why?
- Who told you that you can never truly be well?
- Do you believe that you're broken? Why is that?
- Do you think you can't be fixed?
- Who spoke that over you?
- How does that make you feel?
- Are these thoughts true?
"You are today where your thoughts have brought you;
you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you."
~ James Allen
If you've done and tried it all to get rid of chronic pain without success I DARE YOU to jump off of the chronic pain merry-go-round. Begin with the physical, that's the easy part. Find a Certified CES and learn about your human design and function.
Then start the hard work. Stop and truly meditate/evaluate your thoughts, beliefs and what you speak over your ability to heal. I really believe the biblical truth - what you dwell and meditate upon is what you speak. And what you think about constantly and speak out loud affects you externally by the things you chose to do or not do.
In the context of working to successfully overcome chronic pain means that you have to CHANGE EVERYTHING, not just the physical. When it comes down to true healing, I'm not in charge. YOU are. Ultimately HAVE TO CHANGE in these three key areas in order to FIX yourself for good.
To Successfully Overcome Chronic Muscle & Joint Pain You Must
1. Change your REASONING
- what you think and believe about your situation can help or hinder healing
- can you be fixed?
- can you be well?
- are you forever broken?
2. Change your RESPONSE
- take action to stop repeating what caused the problem (dysfunctional motor patterns, thoughts about your ability to heal, or spending time with individuals who do not support you on your healing path)
- identify and correct your muscle and joint imbalances with the right stimulus and response (corrective exercise)
- begin moving again with a properly progressed active action plan
- speak and meditate on health and healing and what is better in your day to day function
- remove yourself from relationships or situations that keep you in a negative mindset or movement situation
3. Change your ROUTINE
- engage and create new habitual behaviors that promote healing (get quality sleep, take supplements like fish oil, magnesium and vitamin D, increase hydration, limit sugar, decrease processed/packaged foods and substances that cause an inflammation response in your system )
- implement your corrective exercises to restore your body back to it's blue-print design and function
Simply wanting change just isn't enough.
Everyone wants IT (lose weight, accomplish a health/fitness goal, get out of pain, cross something off the "bucket list"). But the elusive "magic pill", the wishful thinking, would of, should of, could of, doesn't cut it. It's a waste of mental and emotional energy, and leaves us right where we started. In physical and/or emotional pain, out of shape, overweight (you get the idea).
Successful and permanent change like overcoming chronic muscle and joint pain therefor requires a trifecta of action. Your thoughts (Reasoning), actions (Response) and habitual patterns (Routine) are all involved. The good news is this means YOU have the power to change! One of my favorite educators and lecturers, Dr. Caroline Leaf, sums it up perfectly.
"You can, through conscious effort, gain control of your thoughts and feelings, and in doing so, you can change the programming and chemistry of your brain"
Dr. Caroline Leaf
Are you ready to change? Need help taking the first step towards overcoming chronic pain? We know what to do! We'd love to hear from you. Please reach out and connect.
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Head Photo Credit: Melissa Thome Photography
Author: Deb Preachuk is a Certified Foundation Training & STOTT Pilates Instructor, Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.
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