Movement As Medicine for Pain
Updated: Nov 19, 2019
Do you have an achy joint, or two or three? Does your body give you pushback when you get active? Do you wonder if living with pain is just something you have to accept? If so, I hope to give you fresh perspective on how you can rebuild your foundation so you can get back to enjoying a higher quality of life.
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING…
Think for a second about how your neuro-muscular system developed. When you arrived on the scene, you couldn’t hold your head up. Thankfully, you eventually figured that out. A few weeks on this planet and your curious inner self also realized those four limbs…they aren’t just chew toys, they’re something you could control...fascinating.
THEN, YOU GOT CURIOUS
Your weeks-old brain also thought: “I wonder what else these things can do?” When you were on your back, gripping objects became interesting, and you eventually learned your legs could help you roll over. Soon rolling over was easy. You needed bigger challenges.
Ah…locomotion. That’s the next challenge. But you needed new skills to get there. First you need to be able to do some unsupported sitting, and then get to all fours. Unafraid to fail, you learned to rock, scoot, crawl and eventually pull yourself up.
Walking…that was tough. You failed a lot. But you did it. Eventually, you progressed to fast walking, then running, jumping, skipping, climbing, playing backyard games, and exploring with unbridled curiosity all the different ways you could move your body.
AND THEN…YOU GREW UP
As a personal trainer I lost track of how many times I heard people tell me their metabolism slowed down at age 30 and that's why they gained weight. In reality, a large part of why they feel that way is because the vast, seemingly endless ways you regularly moved as a kid, slowly fell away. In school (and eventually work) you sat in one basic position…a lot. The movements of play, well they became less cool, less socially acceptable.
Movement also became less needed. Everything about modern convenience is geared toward making it easier for you to meet your basic needs without moving.
Guess what happens to motions you don’t use…you lose them.
A SIMPLE METAPHOR
Imagine going to a symphony with 600 musicians. That could be impressive, right? Well, imagine if the performers fell across a spectrum of skill—some took a few music classes in grade school, a few dozens of the performers trained for decades, and the rest were everywhere in between. That would be one ugly concert wouldn’t it?
Similarly, your body has over 600 muscles, muscles are capable of playing some amazing bio-mechanical music—just see the Olympics for example. Yet, as you got older a lot of those muscles stopped being trained, and when they did, your bio-mechanical music started sounding like the hypothetical symphony above.
What happens as we age, isn’t so much “aging,” as it is that we stop playing.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH GETTING YOU OUT OF PAIN?
What happened as we simultaneously gave up (and outsourced) all sorts of wonderful movement options is we shrunk our “profile of movement competency.” In other words, we didn’t get in awkward positions and play much anymore.
As we shifted to a few motions almost exclusively, things that were easy as kids, (and still could be as adults) got harder and harder. Movements like getting up and down off the floor, kneeling to tie our shoes, fetching items from the back of low cupboards, or reaching for high shelves, became harder and harder.
In short, we became (relatively) strong at a select few (required) motions, and glaringly weak at other movements. Our muscles ability to maintain joint stability and control through a wide range of motions, slowly fell away, and in its place, pain showed up.
THEN, WE AMPLIFIED THE PROBLEM:
We “need” to exercise right? So, what do we do? Strangely enough, we drive to the gym, to buildings containing lots of heavy objects we can pick up, and businesses that feature scheduled blocks of time to practice repetitive motions. We call that “exercise.”
The problem is much of the “exercise” we do in traditional gyms, simply reinforces and amplifies the problem. For so many people, going to the gym is less about rebuilding your foundation, and more about strengthening motions you’re already doing!
Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not all bad, but it may offer a window into why so many people either “don’t like exercise,” or why they develop a pain cycle. Instead of zooming out, playing the long game, and reclaiming the breadth of what we can do, we just “exercise” …and get frustrated.
BEGINNING TO BREAK THE CYCLE
What if we reverse engineered the process? What if we started at the beginning by reclaiming command of our body weight, and practicing so many of the motions we lost as kids? Might that give us a new way to curiously approach the process of rebuilding our foundation?
I’ll write more about how to do the above in other posts. So, let me wrap up here with an encouragement to 1) start looking for where you’ve outsourced movement and reclaim it, and 2) look for where you can start playing again. NOTE: You’ll get more than just a physical benefit. You might even smile.
As Katy Bowman (a fantastic bio-mechanist) pointed out, the best piece of exercise equipment you’re not using is the floor. In what ways can you sit on it differently? Where can you roll, crawl, and get up and down from the floor more often. Where can you climb? Where can you jump or balance? Do those things enough and your body will get the message that if this keeps happening, it will have to reclaim some abilities it once had.
THAT’S HOW YOU START GETTING OUT OF PAIN
It’s not all there is to it, but if we don’t back up and learn to “crawl before we walk” then it will be hard to move with less pain. Your body doesn’t like pain any more than you do. So, be its ally and find ways to help it use daily movements to start feeling more like a kid again. If you do that, you’re a lot closer to enjoying more buoyant, pain-free movement than you might think.
You can do it…and if you need my help I’m here for you. You can email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Go make it a movement-rich day,
PS. Each year, during the first two weeks of December, we open the vault and offer our program called the Pain-Free Movement Challenge. Normally, it's tucked away inside our Transformational Weight-Loss Academy. But, if you found this with serendipitous timing, we'd love to have you join us this year. It's only $14-24...and it just might change your life.