Much of the time decreasing pain in the body is about removing the fear the person has about moving. Injuries or niggles that remain beyond a few months, are no longer injuries. After a few months, lingering pain becomes chronic pain. Chronic pain can occur for a variety of reasons and can be tricky to resolve. Many of us wrongfully assume that physical pain only occurs because of a physical fault. If there is one certain thing about chronic pain, it’s that it’s never only physical.
Optimise Lifestyle Factors
A well-rounded approach to pain management, is one that looks at nutrition, hydration, movement quality and quantity, and of course the mental emotional affects of pain. Chronic hydration, poor nutrition, lack of intelligent movement or too much movement, poor lifestyle factors like sleep, stress etc, can all play a huge role in blocking recovery from injury.
When all of these variables are optimized as best as possible, but pain remains, it may be time to look at the mental and emotional aspects of pain, and the neurological signaling throughout the body.
Don't Add MORE Stress
Chronic pain is distressing as it creates an underlying pain filter that influences our movement. In our opinion one of the worst things you can do with a client in chronic pain, is get them to ‘contract’, ‘brace’ or basically get them really conscious about every aspect of their movement. Giving a client a million cues to remember (ie. Shoulders back, tummy in, squeeze this etc) often elicits an anxious response and we see movement becomes even more restricted. As mental stress increases due to trying to perform the move ‘perfectly’, physical stress manifests too, and the movement ends up looking clunky and doesn’t flow.
When pain patterns become chronic, there is often a signaling issue between the brain and the muscles. Sometimes our brain sends our muscles faulty signals to fire at the wrong time, which increases pain, decreases mobility and generally locks up the body. This is our brain ‘guarding’ or protecting us from further damage. In these situations, it’s imperative to normalize the persons motion with minimal stress.
A brilliant solution for those of us trapped in pain, is to find subconscious ways to move that distract our brain. This might be a simple movement focusing on breath, rhythm, music or external stimuli etc, or even an interactive drill with another human being or a controlled game. (see below video, or above picture for an easy example.)
We use the below drill to help upregulate single leg stance and ankle, hip and thoracic spine communication. It is particularly useful in people who tend to get stuck 'in their own head' and analyse their movement, or are in chronic pain. Having an external stimulus to react to creates interaction, enjoyment and distraction.
When we distract the brain and get the clients’ conscious processing out of the way, we so often see clients light up, and perform rhythmical movements subconsciously. It’s always rewarding after a transformation like this, to remind the person just how capable they are of movement when we get their brain out of their way.
If you are in chronic pain, try to find ways to distract your body while you move so that you can normalize your movement and neurological sequencing. Breathe, put on music, play a game, constantly change the variables every single repetition, aim to flow and find rhythm in movement, or interact with someone else to get your brain in the game, and change your pain!