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Often when a new client comes in the door, they are motivated to seek my advice with issues related to chronic pain or injury, and the narrative often goes something like this:
“My chiropractor said I have (x) and I’ve been seeing my osteopath for (y). My massage therapist says I have the worst trigger points he’s ever seen and my personal trainer wants me to change the exercises that my phsyio therapist selected. I’ve asked my doctor to give me a script for sleeping pills because my TMJ keeps me up at night. My MRI said I have disc degeneration disease! I’m finding it really hard to keep up with my triathalon training and my dietician said going vegan might not be the best thing for me…”
Okay…that might be a slight exaggeration, but you’d be surprised how often I hear similar accounts. Even if you don’t have persistent nagging issues, most of us can claim to have experienced lower back pain, sciatica, twisted ankle, shoulder and neck pain, plantar fasciitis at some point, injuries not serious enough to sideline us to a hospital bed, but enough to put a dent in our activities and make regular movement a literal pain-in-the-ass. I am writing here about the small or temporary bumps in the road of your movement journey. (Some persistant issues can become chronic and life altering and they could still fall into this category. For these issues, such advice as given below might be construed as flippant and I apologize in advance.)
Sometimes, it’s not more that you need to do, it’s less. I have even told clients that they are confusing matters by having too many cooks in the kitchen and they need to go with the one that resonates with them the most, whether that means they choose me or not. So many people and/or modalities promise the moon but almost all soft tissue injuries will respond with the right (often slow) progression plus lack of harmful activities (i.e., you may have to stop running for a time to heal a running injury).
Rest is required for any injury, and that includes not moving as much (or a specific area/joint as much) and sleeping more. Cultivating the ART of doing nothing, of being relaxed, is valuable. Some people meditate (I did it daily for one year and then abruptly gave it up – it had become one more thing added to the “do list”). It is thought that the hunter-gatherers moved more than we do, but also rested more!
If you start thinking of a longer timeline, it might help you to understand not everything has to be solved right now. There is a timeline for everything, and often these little injuries are giving us the gift to slow down and explore our selves. (And I mean you explore you, not giving that job to the myriad of people included in the quote above who bog you down with more terms, more explanations, more exercises to do*). Sometimes that exploration means slowing way down and giving up some expectations.
*Disclaimer, I’m not saying those people aren’t a valuable part of any person’s health care team. However, it’s also a possibility that you are handing off your care to them instead of dealing with what is going on. Or just in the habit of having someone fix you. Or maybe it’s your belief that when something goes wrong you get the expert’s opinion, when in so many cases, you are (or could be) the expert in your body.
When I have an injury, I will think about what I could have done to cause it. Was it too much of something? Too little? Is my strategy to blame it on an event that was out of my control? Does it need rest or micro movement (or both)? If it persists and doesn’t seem to get better with any of those suggestions I may seek the opinion of someone I trust. (And just fyi, the someone I trust is not necessarily someone with a lot of letters after their name.)
You will notice that I didn’t suggest substituting a hard core activity with a lower intensity activity (e.g., if you are spinning, take a yoga class, if you are running, walk instead) because it’s not about doing something else, or something different, it’s about doing nothing. I have had clients ask if they could prop their computer on their chest during Psoas Release because they can’t do nothing for 5 minutes.
What are your strategies for dealing with injury? Add them to the comments below if you wish.
Next time – moving through inclement weather.
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