We are often given these rules from specialists, as instructions on how to train our clients. As movement specialists, we find these absolute statements alarming, and frustrating. Telling someone they can’t do a global movement like a squat is extreme, especially given many of us do variations of squats or lunges on a daily basis in life! Providing such an absolute warning against these movement often adds fear to the client, which in turn makes it even harder to work with them on the ‘dangerous’ move.
Avoiding movement isn’t the solution
When a client comes to us and says ‘I’m not allowed to do squats or lunges’ we often ask clients whether they squat to go to the toilet, or lunge to reach and grab something from the floor, or put their arms over their head to get dressed etc. Every single person performs all of these movements, every single day. In our experience telling someone they ‘can’t’ is the worst thing you can do for them mentally.
Rest Isn't A Solution Either
In our experience, rest also makes the problem worse. It makes you stiffer, more glued up and keeps the injured part from re-integrating with the rest of the body. Ie. It stays inflamed and dehydrated, and doesn’t learn to play nice with the rest of the system. The longer you stay away in fear of movement, the harder it becomes to return to healthy movement. Movement is crucial for healthy cellular function, circulation, muscle, bone and connective tissue health, not to mention overall wellness, mood and brain health!
Keep Moving But Make It SMALL and SMART
Of course when we talk about moving with injury, we are not talking about intense, heavy or big range of movements, we are talking about subtle, whole body movements that serve to reconnect the dots, and nourish the entire lines of tissue involved with the injured area. Many people with injuries or niggles move too big, which creates compensation and pain. When pain is present, it's imperative to move small, regress the threshold, so that you are moving pain free, and efficiently as possible.
WHY is that specific movement hurting?
The solution to changing pain is watching the persons whole system, and figuring out the puzzle of which bits are not fitting together well. We find it’s always best to help a person approach the movement they have problems with. Ie. if squatting hurts, let’s find out why? Rather than avoiding the movement, let's dive straight into it, and optimise it. We can enhance movement quality in so many ways, so it's a great idea to use the 'painful' movement as a metric, to see what helps create change in the body.
This might entail a before and after style assessment where the person moves, performs a release strategy, mobiliser etc, and repeats the movement to see whether positive change was created.
Our most common strategies for pain management involve exploring the following 4 points:
Are hydration, nutrition, recovery and emotional stress an issue adding to pain? If the basics are not happening well, then don’t expect to function well! Good food, water, sleep and quality of life are a prerequisite for being pain free!
Can we reduce the size of the movement before pain kicks in? Going big causes pain, so let’s regress the movement bubble and perform the movement without pain.
Is your body providing feedback somewhere else other than the site of pain? There are often many clues if you can pay attention.
What’s not moving and adding stress to another part? We often see common examples of sore backs because of glued up inner hip tissue, or shoulder pain made worse by a lack of movement at the opposite hip etc.
If someone tells you that you can’t – ask them why! And instead start exploring the feedback in your own body, and trying the above solutions.