Updated: Nov 6, 2019
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When it comes to starting a corrective exercise program, it is essential to know these three things to help get yourself out of chronic muscle and joint pain and back to exercising without restrictions.
1. Symptoms Do Not Always Equal the Cause of the Pain
Have you ever head the phrase, "symptom versus condition"? The most common chronic pain issue I work with here at PainFree Posture MN is low back pain. If you have lower back pain, it is crucial to know that the symptom does not always mean that is where the problem (the cause) stems. In the case of back pain, the pain can quickly stem from elsewhere in the body, such as the feet, ankles, knees even from the upper body such as the shoulders, neck, or head. Think of it as stemming from the bottom up or from the top down.
Let me give you an example. Take text neck, aka Forward Head Syndrome. If you know that your head sits forward of the body, you might never make the connection of your posture to the presence of low back pain. And yet, it can! If your head is continuously ahead of your shoulders, your body has no other option but to move out of ideal postural alignment. The weight of the head, in effect, doubles on the rest of the body. Because the body is a lever system, when the head moves forward, the rest of the body has to run with it and has no other choice but to compensate for this weight imbalance to prevent you from falling over onto your face.
When you begin a corrective exercise program, and understand symptom versus condition, then you won't be surprised that you are doing movements to address muscle balance and joint function in areas away from the pain site.
2. Being Unaware of Movement/Posture Habits Can Impact the Body Negatively
Unconscious movement habits and environmental stressors can also negatively affect you and, when left unaddressed, can contribute significantly to chronic muscle and joint pain.
For example, if you have to sit at a desk, type all day long, AND use a mouse while looking at a monitor, it is a posture habit that always pulls your mouse hand forward. We'll imagine that is your right-hand side. Now your right shoulder blade is protracted; the shoulder joint is ahead, the humerus (arm bone) internally rotates and ultimately pulls your whole right side forward and into torso rotation. When starting a corrective exercise program, it's vital to work with your coach to identify the posture habits and stressors, contributing to the symptoms of chronic pain and create actionable solutions to counterbalance itself.
Without addressing this posture habit, you'll undoubtedly take this posture into all life activities. Over time, your nerve and muscle pathways will be altered, causing the head, neck, and the rest of your spine to adapt to this position. Some muscles will get stronger, and others stretched and weaker. As a result, the nerve paths are also affected and can quickly become impinged. Of course, none of this happens overnight, but with time, which is why people are so surprised when one day they head a "pop," or feel something "slip" and wonder what's gone wrong. The more you hold your body in a weak position, the less likely you are to notice it, and much more inclined to chalk it up to your age, gender, or blame a family member for faulty hereditary and genes. In fact, by the time you experience symptoms, it may have been years of mild symptoms you blamed on aging, or your gender, but never made the connection until now.
When you begin a corrective exercise program, you'll learn the basics of good standing and sitting posture, how to find them, and how to correct yourself throughout the day. This, combined with your therapeutic movement, can go a long way in helping you reduce chronic pain you may have never correlated to daily movement patterns.
3.Emotional/Mental Stress Can Cause, Contribute and Increase Symptoms of Chronic Pain
Mental and emotional stress (both positive and negative) can significantly contribute to or exacerbate the symptoms of chronic pain. While I am NOT a therapist, it is essential to identify how much stress plays a role in the sensation of pain.
For example, you might not be aware that you are clenching your jaw or tensing your shoulders or low back when you are experiencing work or life stress. Tensing the jaw and shoulders is a natural biological reaction of protection when trying to ward off a threat (perceived or not). You may also constrict your breathing ability, and tense up muscles from your feet to the head, and not even be aware of it.
You may also internalize your emotions. My role as a coach is to bring up the subject and identify if stress is a factor in increased pain, then refer out to additional help if needed, or work with you to create an action plan to help minimize the effects.
Symptoms do not always equal the source of the problem
Posture habits play a massive role in how we experience life
Stress (mental/emotional) exacerbate underlying symptoms, aches, and pains
When you hire a corrective exercise coach/trainer, all three of these points will be keys to increasing your awareness and helping you heal in body, mind, and spirit. A specialist trained in this area will help you identify symptom versus condition, help you change posture habits, and identify and plan to handle stressors so that your body can take care of the rest, which is to heal and repair.
If you are unsure how to do this on your own or have other posture or chronic pain related concerns in regards to your daily routine or workouts, be sure to reach out.
And if you have no idea where to start or how to correct these issues on your own, know that with the help and insight of a CES, you can begin to carve a pathway out.
We're in this together; I'm here to help.
Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Head Photo Credit: Melissa Thome Photography
Author: Deb Preachuk, BRS, BPE, CF-L1, Pn-1, is a Comprehensive Certified STOTT Pilates Instructor, Level 2 Foundation Training Instructor, TBMM Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.
In addition to running PainFree Posture MN, Deb is an Orangetheory Fitness Coach and teaches regularly at the Apple Valley, and Shakopee, MN locations.