What do you think?
Here’s a fun tidbit I hear OFTEN second hand from clients after their friends/family/peers find out what their training and therapy plans consist of…
“At your age, should you really be lifting weights?”
“Isn’t weight training dangerous for your joints? Does that really help you feel better?”
“Aren’t you worried about getting injured again?”
“I heard that weight training is bad for you- doesn’t it cause arthritis”
First off.. I’m honestly not sure where people are finding that last bit of information from, at this point in our history. Secondly I’m also endlessly grateful that I’ve stopped frequently hearing that weight training will make women bulky- at last that myth has been put out of it’s misery. Third off- weight training is highly effective for arthritis rehabilitation and management- WHEN IT IS DONE CORRECTLY. The only time it’s going to cause arthritis is if you don’t do it in good form. This is why having the guidance of a trained professional is imperative when starting any new program. At the very least get a movement assessment and see where you need to work!
Would I tell someone of ANY age to just go and start lifting weights (no matter how much)? NOPE.
Do I prescribe and coach programs for ALL ages (yes, all the way up to 90-somethings- seriously) that involve various amounts of loaded movements, functional movements, dynamic movements, and stability training? You bet I do!
Here’s the neat things about the body.. it works on an adaptation based system. Which means- invariably- to IMPROVE our systems we have to STRESS our systems.
Here’s the feedback I get from my dedicated clients:
“I don’t wake up at 3am anymore with back pain”
“I sleep through the night and don’t wake up stiff in the mornings anymore”
“I don’t get tired during the day”
“My joints aren’t bugging me as much since I started training”
“I’m making healthier choices elsewhere in my life since starting this training routine.”
“I FEEL GOOD”
When we apply GOOD, healthy stress to our system- things change for the better. We also develop a higher tolerance for negative stressors, which means we function just overall more kick ass.
It no longer new information that the mind and the body are one coordinating unit.
Exercise, movement- of any kind- is the BEST and most EFFECTIVE medicine. The stats support it. Check these out.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, if we were to decrease the number of inactive Canadians by even 10%, we’d see a 30% reduction in all-cause mortality and major savings in health care. It is in fact estimated that more than $2.4 billion, or 3.7 per cent of all healthcare costs, were attributed to the direct cost of treating illness and disease due to physical inactivity1. The financial impact of poor health amounts to a loss of more than $4.3 billion to the Canadian economy, and the negative repercussions of inactivity cost the healthcare system $89 billion per year in Canada2. According to several studies, properly structured and supported exercise program, designed and delivered by a kinesiologist can, among other benefits:
- Reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease by 40%;
- Reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 50% and be twice as effective as standard insulin in treating the condition;
- Help the function of muscles for people affected by Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis;
- Decrease depression as effectively as pharmacological or behavioural therapy;5
- Reduce the risk of stroke by 27%;
- Reduce the risk of colon cancer by 60%;
- Reduce mortality and risk of recurrent cancer by 50%;
(Based on year 2009. Jansen et al., 2012 2 Based on year 2013. 3 Cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent predictor of hypertension incidence among initially normotensive healthy women.
Barlow CE et al. Am J Epidemiol 2006; 163:142-50. 4 Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. DPP Research Group. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:393-403. 5 Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response.
Dunn A et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005. 6 Physical activity and colon cancer: confounding or interaction? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
June 2002 – Volume 34 – Issue 6 – pp 913-919)
Weight training- when done intelligently for each individual- is just as effective as other types of exercise in improving health. It has it’s own set of extra benefits and of course risk factors. Just like that Tylenol you like to pop for your back pain.
There is no one way to utilize the benefits of movement. Some people to pick things up and put them down.. others like to yoga.. some like to do step classes, and others just like to go for regular walks and stretch. IT’S ALL GOOD.
The biggest emphasis I am trying to make is that adding weight to your routine when you’re doing it correctly for YOUR SYSTEM (this is where the help of a trained professional often comes in), you’re looking at more resilience throughout your body and mind.
Don’t knock it til you try it 😉
(With the correct prescription and educated advice, of course!)
Is there a correct way to move?
This is a question that has plagued therapists, trainers, and clients since the age of time.
Actually.. probably not that long.
The evolution of health and movement is one to be admired- in that, we’ve gone from quadruped beings, to walking, running, bipedal masterpieces, to what we are now.
We’re at an interesting point in movement science. We’ve somewhat regressed in our movement ability. While yes, we are still bipedal, upright beings- we no longer spend much of our time moving around in a variety of ways.
Now we move from point a-b-c-d in condensed timeframes, spending majority of our time between 3 positions (or variations of..): standing, seated, and laying down.
The author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, points out that the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions not only may have ended our movement ability, but also may have birthed the beginnings of the various chronic illnesses and pain that affects us today.
Modern Day practitioners have been preaching alignment for decades already, and certainly our posture and ability to move has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing.. but is there such a thing as the “perfect” posture or alignment? Is there one optimal way to move?
The truth is yes, but also.. no.
There is certainly a most efficient way to move- in that, we will put minimal stressors on our structure and expend the least amount of energy to create that movement. There is a general textbook answer to this optimal alignment.
As an aside- it’s common to hear practitioners saying that one of your legs is longer then the other, or your pelvis is out of alignment.. when often the truth is some asymmetries are NORMAL to a certain degree.
We all have one shoulder that will be slightly depressed based on our hand dominance. We all have slight differences in how our rib cage sits, because of our anatomy (the left side has less lung in it to account for the heart- causing a shift between left and right), and where the rib cage goes the hips follow. Our body works in a chain like system- one link compensates for the next.. and while many compensations cause other problems, not all asymmetries are bad or abnormal. This will also change based on the mental health and perception an individual holds on pain, stress, and their systemic health. The debates on these fuel many research articles and books already. Stay tuned for more discussion on those topics and how movement relates to them.
When it really comes down to it, our movement is as unique as we are- and what is the best way to move for one person may not always mirror the best way to move for another person. We’re designed to be adaptable beings, and our postures should be just as adaptable.
Wait.. haven’t you been preaching posture and biomechanics your whole career?
Yes.. and while there may be differences across our spectrum of movement- majority of us inherit similar postural dysfunctions.. it’s very rare to find someone who moves well, even though there is no set checklist for what exactly moving well means.
Moving poorly in relation to your body can create a vicious cycle of degeneration, causing pain, causing less movement, causing more negative health outcomes. You can get enough movement, but if you don’t move well- you can actually do harm to your body which results in less movement.
For that reason *usually the first step with clients is to assess and correct how they move. From there we build a foundation of efficient movement, and build their movement habits on top of that foundation.
While I can’t say there is one right way to move, I can say that it is very rare to find someone with obviously inefficient movement without some sort of history of pain. The thing about pain is that it may not even present as physical pain.. it may be present in the form of gastrointestinal issues, or undue mental states. Our structure represents our internal framework too- and that can be a chicken or the egg scenario.
Many movement based practitioners will offer within their consult with you a movement screen. If you’re looking for an assist with your health, this is one of the things you should look to your professional to do. Cookie-cutter exercise programs, apps, and group fitness classes are convenient and cost effective- but the grain of salt there is if you get injured or develop pain because you’re movement wasn’t properly screened before starting a program- they cost you more in the long term.
We routinely see clients at their wits end come into our care. They’ve tried everything and nothing works- they are even hesitant to try anything else. They can’t move enough because of pain, or- they’ve never been taught healthy habits around their lifestyle (including movement and nutritional practices). This is what plagues our healthcare system today, and the message I keep putting out there to clients and peers is that none of this is a difficult fix- it just requires a shift from expecting a quick, cheap fix, to some quality time spent investing in our own health and getting educated guidance.
If you have questions about your movement today- send us an email and we’d be happy to help. Consults are always free.
It’s all going to be okay… Assuming you’re breathing right!
Just kidding.. It’ll be okay regardless. However, the way we breathe dramatically influences our total body function and health. Breathing improperly will not only cause stiffness in the upper back, shoulders, hips, and neck, it can also decrease energy levels. The most common manifestation I see of poor breathing mechanics is neck pain and headaches. Most of us like to breathe with the muscles in the upper part of our chest and neck (instead of our diaphragm). This is especially true for those of us who experience increased levels of stress- as emotions will change how we breathe as well. Since most of us now live in a society that breeds high stress and emotion a lot of the time, it’s not surprising the most of us have forgotten how to breathe.
If we experience stiffening in our ribcage, we will by nature also experience a tightening in our neck and hips. Where the ribs go, the hips go.. And vice versa. So now we have stiff ribs, hips, and a neck that is poorly set up to absorb the force of our heavy heads bouncing around.
Try this. Lay on your back with your feet resting on a stool or chair (knees and hips should be approx at 90deg). Place your hands on either side of your rib cage. Take a deep breath in, and out. Did you feel your lower rib cage expand to the sides (into your hands)? No? You’re probably breathing into your upper chest and neck, then. One more time, do the same thing but move one hand to the tissue just above your collarbone. Did you feel that tissue expand with your inhale? Then you’re definitely doing it wrong. Take your hands back to your side rib cage. Now apply light pressure on either side (press in with hands) and take an inhale, focusing on pushing your hands out. Repeat this at least 10 deep breaths, also making sure to exhale entirely each time. Welcome to the wonderful world of diaphragm breathing!
Practicing that movement multiple times a day is the first step in getting your breathing back on track. You should notice a marked difference in how your neck and upper back feel, maybe even improved energy levels and mood! Make sure when you do take time to practice this you don’t have other distractions. It takes a lot of focus to get this right!
Yes- I do actually ask my clients this question… and no I am not implying that all seniors have crazy feet.
What do I mean by old person feet?
If you looked at your toes and saw any of that… there’s something up!
You know that stat where we’re told that seniors have higher incidences of falls due to a decrease in balance as we age? Well it’s true, but not because that’s “just getting old”… because generally as we age we lower our levels of activity for reasons anywhere from “I ache” to “I’m old I don’t feel like moving anymore” to “I’m scared of falling”. All these things are counterintuitive. If we maintain our movement, we maintain our balance, confidence, and health! Old person feet aka what you see above occur because the muscles in our feet get shut off, for one reason or another (blame the shoes..not the skeleton…), and over time just get used to that position. A entirely dysfunctional position. This also will cause stiffening in the ankle which limits the flexion we have in walking- that plus the cramped up toes means more chance of catching your toes/foot on a crack, stair, carpet, or patch of ice… increasing your chance of a fall. This stiffening also increases chance of stress fractures in the foot and many conditions all the way up the chain, as high as the neck!
And you know what? A LOT of young people have old person feet…
1. Our shoes
You know that fad that swept across the running and exercise world not too long ago claiming minimalist shoes and barefoot running were the thing to do? Well, they weren’t entirely wrong. Regular footwear, orthotics, and workout shoes with all that support are really not doing us any favours. Not only do they cramp our toes, they also provide a great environment for ZERO foot activity. And what happens when a muscle group isn’t used? Well, it gets shut off entirely. Why is that no good? See foot above, and feel the effects of plantars fasciitis, morton’s neuroma, fallen arches, bunions, metatarsalgia, etc etc.
2. Our habits
So your knee hurts, your back hurts, your hip hurts, your neck hurts… common practice? Treat the area that hurts and correct the core, hips, and general posture. Not some common practice? Check the foot posture and build upwards from there. Yes- I said it- dysfunctional feet create dysfunction all the way up the chain! We also love taking every suggestion whole heartedly… you have flat feet because your mom and mom’s mom had flat feet? Well, you’re doomed! Into orthotics you must go.. because surely there isn’t ANY way to retrain the arches of the foot (which, by the way are made of entirely changeable tissues such as muscle.. which is under YOUR control……). Did that sound ridiculous? Thought so. Orthotics and shoes… not great for functional feet! Our posture is a learned habit, usually from our family as we’re learning how to move.. so yes, it makes sense that you pick up what your closest peers are putting down when it comes to foot posture and gait and mannerisms… but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to the same health fate.
3. Our society
You’re likely reading this thinking.. well what does she want me to do.. go barefoot all the time? That’s preposterous!
We’ve created a stigma around our feet. Is not hygienic not to wear shoes, it’s not healthy, it’s ugly.. our feet aren’t pretty, etc. Okay fine, so don’t go barefoot to the grocery sore (although, in New Zealand I’ve experienced many a kiwi who does and did!), or in public places.. but when you’re at home, how about not wearing your indoor shoes… or at the gym, wear your socks only and tread in a more natural state.. work those feet out too. Yes, your feet will likely complain a bit- just as your abs and legs do that first week in the gym after New Years.. give them some time to progress into their new working life, and I guarantee you’ll notice benefits.
Now you’re thinking- okay but how do I actually fix my flat feet, or bunions, or cramped old person feet?
Well, I’ll tell you!
FIrst thing, follow steps above to getting out of your shoes any chance you get.. secondly, add in these exercises!
1. Ankling: keep your toes and heels on the ground, and practice lifting that arch up, holding, and then letting it fall back down. Notice the difference? Notice your hips have to work a little too and your whole leg changes position? Gooooood.
2. Ankle sweeps and toe crunches
Band isn’t necessary but an extra progression if you have one around! First sweep the foot away and up, working those outside ankle muscles.:. Then do some toe curls.. crunch the toes up using those arch muscles- don’t lift toes or heel off the ground! A good external cue for this is to lay a towel flat and use the toes to bunch it up. You should feel your arch working! Sets of 10 please!
Other things you should be doing outside of all these tips is as much balance work as you can.. out of shoes of course! Focus on keeping when weigjt between the front and back of your foot, and that position you found in the ankling exercise.
Have fun kids!
“When will I be better?”
“Why haven’t I made any progress?”
“What can I do to speed this process up?”
Part of my job as a clinician and a trainer/health coach is to help my client’s set reasonable expectations. However, I struggle sometimes with answering the “how long” and “why me” questions. Honestly, there isn’t always a clear answer.
Yes, there is the textbook answers like.. a sprain, depending on severity will take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to heal, a fracture will take 6-12 weeks, a surgery incision will take 6-8weeks to heal, nerve damage can take years, and a muscle strain will take 4-6weeks. But, from real life experience, these are pretty darn generic time frames.
Those time frames don’t cover things like non-specific back pain, tendinitis, chronic pain conditions, or how long it should take to improve other health factors like stress, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc etc.
Those textbook phrases also don’t take into consideration life in the real world. A world that is chaotic, full of surprises, strapped into a never ending roller coaster that we aren’t usually in full control of.
With all that considered, answering the how long, what if, when can I interrogation gets a little trickier from my end. I want my clients and patients to be set up for success, not frustration. Giving a general time frame can be helpful in setting goals, but not so helpful if the personality type takes it and sets it on a pedestal.
When it comes to personal training, the golden standard in expectations is that in 4 weeks you personally should start feeling different in your clothes, in your mood and energy, and in other little things day to day. By 6 weeks you should visibly see yourself in a different light, maybe a different pant size, or catching yourself in the mirror and noticing small changes, and within 8 weeks you should notice other people noticing. This is what they taught us in school, anyway. That time frame generally does ring true, but at the same time that is a true fact when conditions are perfect. I always recommend being on a regular, guided program for at least 3 months to get a true sense of if a program is working or not.
When it comes to rehabilitation and pain relief, honestly- anything those. I’ve had the most textbook cases throw surprises and end up taking much longer then expected to clear up or improve- and I”ve also had very complex cases surprise me with almost miraculous improvements in a short time frame. Pain in itself is a very complex thing, and factors in pieces from every other part of our life.
So. What do I say when I have someone needing a time frame? I always phrase it with a “there is no guarantee of anything, but optimistically I am hoping for…. *insert pre-formed time frame based on the case, goals, and needs”. So really, I am saying I’m not sure but let’s see what happens.
As a practitioner and a trainer, I want to see my clients having some sort of reaction to whatever I”m implementing into their program. Whether that’s small and steady improvements, the body throwing new curve balls as a reaction to a change in routine, one injury going away to reveal a bigger underlying problem, body changes, mood changes, energy changes, etc etc. Any change is often a sign of progress. That’s the other reason I don’t love the idea of setting a golden standard time frame for anything- one thing improved or modified often reveals something else under the surface. Many of the cases I take are cases that have levels of complexity hidden.
My expectations change every time I see a patient week to week or session to session. Your progress from session to session is always occurring, if it wasn’t.. if there wasn’t some sort of change.. I would know I’m on the wrong track. Then it’s up to me to change my plan, or refer to you to a better resource or do more research for you. I want my client’s to expect that they are going to get somewhere, and they are going to reach their goals. I hesitate on asking them to form set timelines- as in my experience it only leads to negative stressors down the road. Setting reachable goals is of course paradigm in all health endeavours, and I strive to motivate each client in whatever way works for them- but reachable goals is also a very adaptable term. Our bodies generally tell us when we’re on the right track, or if we’re just beating a dead horse. Sometimes the horse slows down because it’s being pushed too hard, or concentrated on too much It’s my job to keep that horse alive, paced appropriately and encourage it forward.
All this being said, you as a client/patient have a reasonable right to question any practitioner on exactly these things. How long do you expect to have me in care? How often will I need to come? How often will I need to come that often? I don’t feel like I”m making any progress, why? I know when my patients ask these types of questions that they are just looking for their own way to make sense of the process, and I respect that. If a practioner doesn’t take kindly to these questions, they might not be the right person to get you where you need to go- horse intact.
The phrase I hear almost daily as a personal trainer.
“My doctor said I needed to lose 20lbs in 3 months to get healthier”.
An actual sentence I got from one of my clients a few days ago.
Yes, dropping lbs is sometimes a necessary part of getting healthy….. but more often then not improving your health (by health I mean blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, sleep, energy levels, and mood etc) doesn’t come with a large drop in the number on the scale when we are talking about an adult of average lifestyle and health. From my experience, weight loss actually plateaus just as major progress in all those other more important things begins.
We’ve all heard the facts before… muscle weighs more then fat, it’s how you feel and look- not the number. And that’s all true.
My client went on for a few minutes justifying why he thought that the weight loss was the most important factor in his health. Saying he’d dropped a few pounds already in the last few months and was looking forward to losing about 15lbs more, while simultaneously telling me the last time he went through a training program he lost only 5lbs but dropped 3 pant sizes.
He was making my case for me, and finally I stopped him and asked “how much do you think I weigh?”.
He paused for a second, looked me up and down, and said “well I’m not sure, but definitely less then me..”. For reference, I’m a 24y/o female, 5’8″ in an athletic build. He is about my height, 60something male. He weighs in around 140lbs.
So, finally I said.. “I weigh 180lbs”. (this is 100% true). He was sure I was lying. “But you don’t look as though you have that much on you.. you’re not big at all!” And I said, “precisely why the number on the scale is not something I worry about”.
That number on the scale includes our bone mass, muscle mass, water content, and fat levels. That number on the scale is EVERYTHING in us. One can’t look at that one number and thing it determines their health, by any means.
As we change our lifestyle and our fitness levels, muscle replaces fat, our metabolism increases, and our whole system becomes more efficient. Often “losing weight” or “toning” can be achieved in small levels just by adding in 20-30min more movement during the day and drinking more water to help flush the system.
Adding one one hour workout in a day will not do a tonne for the entire system long term, but it can be a great start to kick starting that system into a higher gear. Often starting with one guided session or challenging workout a week is enough to inspire daily changes the rest of the week. I find with most of my clients doing regular weigh ins is actually counter productive, as they get fixated on that number- and when it plateaus, as it always does, they forget to be encouraged by all the other changes they’ve made to their overall health and appearance.
I’ve weighed around 180lbs for majority of my adult life, so far. That being said I’ve worn a range of sizes through that time. 180lbs has looked very different depending on what the rest of my life looks at the time. Things like stress, diet, routine, illnesses, injuries, all played their part… but in the end, the one things I’ve really noticed is that that number didn’t change much even when EVERYTHING else was drastically different. For perspective again, I stayed at 180lbs even after trekking in the Himalayas, living off eggs, and dying for 15 days on my way up to Everest Base Camp 1. If my body can stay at it’s apparent set weight in high altitude training with minimal nutrition and buring 7000++calories a day… I think it’s made it’s point. Weight is the last thing you should worry about when you’re working towards any sort of health goal. Your body will tell you when you’re making progress, but you have to be aware and open enough to observe the little things and not hyper focused on a number in between your feet every day.
Looking for lifestyle change advice? Email me or find us on instagram (integrative_movement).
See you out there!
As usual I’m falling behind on my posting. I just wanted to pop in and give a quick update on Integrative Movement and Katmah Training, as things are happening!
As many of you know, Integrative settled into it’s very own location in the South End of Winnipeg this fall. While we still travel for some clients, we cut down our mobile services to only a few days a week. This hasn’t stopped us, however, as we still travel to Portage and MacGregor, and St. Agathe for clientele. Kathlyn also works out of Carman at Empower Fitness a few days a week. Accessibility for all our clients is a must!
In January Integrative was happy to welcome Lisa to the team as another Athletic Therapist. She is at the studio 3-4 days a week and is taking on new patients! She offers both therapy and training services!
Katmah has been on the go as well, recently having done a workshop for riders on the topic of Mind Body in coordination with the Manitoba Horse Council, and Scott Erickson Performance Consulting. It was a great afternoon, focused on equestrian sport psychology- dealing with adversity, preparing for competition, and common issues faced in our sport’s culture around mental preparation. Katmah followed with a discussion on what the equestrian requires from their body and movement, and of course there was exercises involved! Kat will next be speaking at Pine Ridge on April 23 in a full day clinic. This clinic includes both a lecture and riding sessions and is still open to auditors and a few riding spots are waiting to be booked!
Most recently Kathlyn was honored with making the top 25 shortlist for Athena Leadership’s Leaders of Tomorrow scholarship for her work and goals in healthcare. It was an exciting and enlightening evening networking with some of Winnipeg’s leading women business owners!
Through the fall and winter, Integrative Movement has been working to provide rural communities with access to movement education, exercise instruction and therapy. Integrative Movement was titled as such because we believe in making movement a part of everyday life, and that movement is integral in an integrated approach to health care and prevention medicine. We’ve also been working on building bridges with local senior’s centres to offer exercise instruction for their well being.
So what’s coming next?
IM is proud to be returning to Murdoch McKay Clansmen as the medical supervision for the 2017 season.
IM will also be returning to the MHJA circuit as medical coverage, and will be offering Athletic Therapy Services on competition weekends.
Weekly classes are being offered on Tuesday evenings at 5:45pm in Winnipeg, as well as 10:30am on Thursday mornings. These classes are all about fitness and mobility- and are open to all ages and fitness levels. As pre-season kicks into gear, IM is offering a discount on training services and therapy services (unless you have insurance coverage 😉 for the next few months. Contact us to find out more about this if you’re an MHJA, or MHC member.
We are also hoping to reach out to physicians in the city and rural communities to talk about movement, athletic therapy, and kinesiology. So if you think you’re GP would be interested- please let us know!
That’s about all the news for now- stay tuned to our social media for exercise ideas, handy tips about your health, and other updates!
Facebook: Integrative Movement
Booking site: http://integrativemovement.janeapp.com
A client messaged me today. A training client turned therapy client who had begun training telling me a long history of his shoulder pain/injury. Initially I offered that I was also a therapist and we could do some specific work for the shoulder- but they dismissed that as they had already “tried more then 6 therapists and nothing had worked”. I left it at that and focused our training sessions to “shoulder friendly” and preventative upper body work alongside the total body workouts.
Weeks passed, and finally I got fed up with the complaining around the plateaued shoulder pain. I informed them we’d be doing therapy that day instead of a training session. Just to see.
And so, today I receive a message. This is a week after I treated him. Once. For shoulder tendonitis.
The message expressed shock at how his shoulder no longer hurt. Shock because they’d tried so many things already and none of them had worked. Shock that I knew what I was doing. “how do you do it?” they asked.
Pain is something we all experience at some point in our lives. Many people suffer from chronic pain (defined as pain lasting more then 3months consecutively), and in our society pain is still one of the most ignored signs our body gives us. We try everything to suppress it, even ingesting drugs that suppress our nervous system and brain into borderline comatose, negative states- for just a short period of relief. We try therapy after therapy, fix after fix, and when nothing works we ask our doctors for more pills. More short term relief. Or, we live it it. We accept the tole it takes on our lives, our personalities, and the people around us.
Then there’s the opposite- we condone those who do take pain killers and other heavy prescriptions as useless, and unmotivated to fix their own problems.. when what we’ve given them to ingest is often causing those exact symptoms of malaise.
The text message I received from this client is not an unusual message for me to receive. In my line of work, with my skillset, I am often seeing clients who have come to their last resort. Trying one last person to help them, having been passed through the healthcare system and finding nothing of use. This is not a statement I wish to be viewed as bragging. Many of those with my skillset and training have the same occurrence. Clients in disbelief because something, someone has finally given them some relief, something useful and educated them on how to solve the underlying problem.
Pain is manifested in any number of ways. Pain that lasts a long time sometimes stops feeling like pain. It becomes a part of who we are. It changes how we think, and it changes how we react. It manifests as negativity, systemic problems such as other chronic health conditions (think IBS, Chrohn’s, anxiety, depression, heart burn, high blood pressure, cancer, etc etc). Clients with chronic pain have told me that they don’t feel physical pain as much as they recognize other symptoms (grumpiness, indigestion, anxiety). As a society we’ve learned to mask pain, whether that pain is emotional or physical or both. As a society we’ve masked symptoms, and then judged people who display the side effects of those masks.
Our health care system has become reactive, not proactive. Optimistically, I see that beginning to change. With med schools now just BEGINNING to implement mandatory physical education within course work, seeing exercise as medicine. It’s starting. I’m in a business of prevention- which is an impossible sales pitch.
As a movement professional and clinical specialist- I fight daily against the human psyche. Human nature likes being lazy. Human nature loves the quick fix. The human brain also really doesn’t like having to work harder then it needs to. This wasn’t as big of an issue when our daily life was largely variable, manual work. Hunting and gathering, farming… but now.. we sit and drive and sit. Our bodies aren’t used. Most of us live in a stressed state, in the fight or flight response, chronically. Our breathing pattern has changed, we stop using proper mechanics and use a handful of the hundreds of muscles in our body for daily life. Then we wonder why we’re sick.
I hope you read this with an open mind. I hope that you don’t take this as an affront to your personal choices. I hope that reading this makes you find another resource that may help you improve your lifestyle choices in health. Health cannot be separated into parts, or specialties. Our bodies work as one unit- all systems and parts feeding into the next. The medical system is just beginning to see how much that is true. And the more health care professionals can learn to work together on that and educate patients on their own bodies, the healthier we will all become.
Pain comes and goes, all life is ebbs and flows. The trick, the paradox, is to learn how to ride those waves and not try and stop them. Pain is always a message from the body. Discomfort is always there to tell us, and to teach us. Don’t stifle it, do something about it. Learn from it. Seek out answers. As Ken Kesey says “The answer is never the answer. What’s really interested is the mystery. If you seek the mystery inseasd of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. Nobody ever finds the answer, they think they have and they stop thinking..”. What hurts is rarely the problem. What hurts is a manifestation of something else. Any practicing professional who gives you something to relieve the manifestation is forgetting the subtle complexity of the body. At the same time, we need to come up with other resources and educational services for those who have been sucked into the masking pattern. Recognise the side effects, and their detriments. Realize that someone’s negativity may be manifesting from their underlying symptoms or side effects. Clinicians: don’t write off patients based on their initial impression on you. I can’t tell you the number of times a client has turned into a completely different person after you begin to see under the surface and make differences in their symptoms, take away masking agents. It’s never as it first seems.
What’re your experiences with pain? With masking? With therapy? Have you found good resources or are you still searching? Have you given up?
Here in Canada we’ve started the food and holiday marathon that is October (Thanksgiving) to January. In the next few months we’ll be bombarded with gatherings, food, drinks, and cold weather. A amazing combination for socializing- a brutal combination for our bodies.
Luckily, there are certain movements that can help with the usual bloating, digestion, and general feelings of fullness and lethargy that come along with the season.
Spinal twists are amazing moves for both our spine health, digestive health, and breathing mechanisms. They are definitely a favourite pattern of mine to teach.
There’s three in particular that I quite like and suggest you give a try this fall and winter!
First up: The supine twist. Laying on your back, bring your knee up to your chest and guide it across your body towards the floor. Look the opposite way to allow a twist through your entire torso. Stay here and breathe deeply for 20-30seconds/side.
On all fours, reach one had to the sky and then underneath your supporting arm. Either hold this position or rotate through the movement 10-15times, breathing deeply throughout.
Either from a half lunge (back knee on the ground) or full lunge, place your opposite hand to your front leg on the ground, and reach towards the sky with the other hand, twisting through the torso. Careful here not to twist the hips, but only from the pelvis up. Hold and breathe for 10-30sec/side.
If you have a back injury or undiagnosed pain in your spine- please consult your health care professional before trying these. Always pay attention to how you feel progressing into the movements- if you have pain, consult a professional before proceeding!