A Retirement Plan for Your Body
Earlier this month, NY Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds posted an article called How to Exercise with Chronic Pain. After appropriately noting that all people starting an exercise program (especially those with chronic pain) should start first by consulting with their physician, she goes on to share some important research-based ideas:
If you hurt, exercise helps: Accumulating evidence in the past few decades shows that being inactive will tend to reinforce pain sensitivity pathways. Exercise, on the other hand, often reduces feelings of pain immediately afterward and raises people’s pain thresholds
Find the right routine: What provides relief for a friend of yours may not work for you, so it is important to safely explore multiple pathways to movement, which might be yoga, tai-chi, Pilates, water aerobics, or outdoor walking. Even within an exercise modality, some parts of the practice might not feel great and it is ok to avoid those areas, or create modifications for them.
Follow the two-hour rule: “If pain is worse two hours after finishing exercise than it was before you started, this is an indication that you have overdone it and should scale back the next time.”
Exercise is a placebo and that’s OK. While exercise can help to decrease the felt experience of chronic pain, research shows that one’s context, and one’s expectations, directly affect the degree to which one experiences pain reduction.
At Practice Fitness, we use an approach penned by the creators of Functional Movement Systems called, “protect, correct, and develop.” As we take you through movement patterns, on the mat or on the equipment, we are assessing the quality of your movement, including stability, mobility, strength, balance and coordination.
In situations where you experience pain in a pattern, we protect you by finding out which part of the body experienced the pain, and which part of the movement caused it, and we temporarily discontinue patterns that might trigger the pain response and ask you to have it looked at by your physician or physical therapist. However, we have hundreds of other exercises or patterns that we can do with you to help keep you moving well.
In chases of chronic pain, we’ll want to make sure you are cleared for low intensity activity and provide modifications of exercises to make sure you don’t apply more stress to a given part of the body than necessary.
For clients who don’t experience pain, but do exhibit repeated compensations during moment patterns, we’ll seek to correct your performance of the pattern by first bringing your awareness to the pattern, then adjust its execution, partly through cueing and partly with props if needed, such as cushion, bands, balls, etc.
Once you’ve achieved a minimum level of movement competency for a pattern, or a set of patterns, we then develop your pattern by giving challenge modifications, which might be a harder version of the pattern, or equipment and props that add resistance, or entirely new patterns that challenge similar starting positions or things like balance and stamina.
When working with instructors at Practice, one of the best things you can do is communicate how you are feeling at the start of your session. Do you feel stiff, achy, or fatigued? Do you have any pain that has shown up since your last session? Is there a particular level of intensity at which you would like to work for the session? This information is vital for helping your instructor make more informed programming choices for the day’s session, but also for other sessions going forward.
Our overarching goal is to help you progress, or “develop,” but the road to progress sometimes requires a detour around areas that need “protecting”, or “corrections” to certain patterns at a lower level to ensure that you can continue to move well at a higher level.
If you’ve been an active participant at the studio or online with us in 2021, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support. If you’ve been inactive for a while, but looking to change this in the new year, please feel free to reach out to me personally for a consult to see if we can help you move better and better in 2022.
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The retirement plan for your body!