Welcome to the end of summer. As you shift from the lazy dog days of summer to the "back to school hustle" it's common to notice pain creep back. Why the heck is that? Well maybe one of this points below will answer that question for you.
1. Pain does not happen Willy Nilly. Your body will do anything to prevent pain, so pain happens because of a reason. Have you every had pain that comes and goes? You step on the Yoga mat, but some classes make it feel better, and some make it feel worse. You can't figure it out, and end up having to take over the counter pain medication, with worry you might have to take prescription because the pain might get worse. One way to stop this cycle is to consult with a professional to determine the root cause of the pain. Taking pain medication should not be part of your daily routine. There are other alternatives and ways to reduce pain in your body, so you can practice yoga pain free. Read on.
2. Inflammation throughout your body can increase pain in a specific location. Let's say your stress level is through the roof, or your diet is creating havoc for your digestive system. These issues impact your whole system and can exacerbate current pain you have in your body. I will be talking more specifics on inflammation Thursday 8/23 at Ignite Wellness register here: https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=14052589&appointmentType=7554282 In the meantime, here is one thing to take notice. To reduce your stress are you aggressively pursuing exercise activity? Are you taking the hardest yoga classes, going crazy at the gym? There is a time and place for this, however, not when you are inflamed and have an inkling of pain. Aggressive exercise fuels you inflammatory system and will exacerbate your pain. See next point.
3. The "good things" you are doing for your pain can actually make it worse. Often this has to do with control. We want control of the healing process, and try to speed it up. Sorry not sorry but let go of the reigns, sometimes the best thing you can do is slow down, rest and allow your bodies innate healing to take over. Take it from me, I learned the hard way. Overdoing, overthinking fuels that inflammatory process I mentioned above. This sets off a whole cascade of hormones that impedes and slows the healing process. So as hard as this is, be gentle with your self.
4. Massage can make pain worse. I'm probably going to receive from feedback from this one, but hear me out. I love and support massage, after all I am a Massage Therapist. However, just like the point above mentioned sometimes rest is best. Massage can actually exacerbate the pain by increasing blood flow to the area, and again that inflammatory process. Often massage is performed too aggressively (note I did not say deep- I massage deep, but not aggressively) and/or in the wrong area. Hear me, deep tissue massage in your low back will make your discs very angry if there is already inflammation there. Have you ever had a massage, and then had your back seize up? This is part of the reason.... To help the low back, the massage needs to be strategically performed in another region of the body (most massage therapist do not know this). Why? See next point.
5. Where you feel the pain is often not the root source of the pain. It can be, but more frequently it's not. Nerves which exit the spine can cause pain far away from where the actual nerve is being injured, for example. Low back pain often is caused by a dysfunction somewhere else in the body. That's what I love about being a physical therapist -investigating the root source of the pain.
6. Your thoughts can impact your pain. If you are stressed about your pain, worried that it will never go away, obsess about it all the time.... Then guess what you will have? More pain, stronger pain, and pain that's always there every time you look for it. It's just like that movie "The Secret". What you choose to put your focus and energy on is what you will attract. Want less pain? Focus on healing, rest and what you can do to support healing. Which leads to the next point.
7. Do you believe you can actually heal? This is a hard one. Once in a while I'll have a patient who hits a plateau or block of no change it symptoms. Then I have to ask this hard question. Ask yourself, and then pause. You might be surprised by the answer. Belief in your own body's ability to heal is number #1. I didn't put it as number one because often consciously we will answer- "duh, of course I can heal". It's not until we hit a block, or work deeper into our unconscious that we realize, oh maybe I have some self doubt here....
8. Healing is multi dimensional. Yes, your pain can be from a fluke trauma. More commonly however, pain is from a compound of events, movements and thoughts, essentially a lifestyle that adds up over time. Now I'm not going to step onto a high soap box here. We are all human, none of us are perfect, myself included. However your lifestyle, and all the areas of your life will impact your pain. For example, let's take the hot topic of finances, not directly related to low back pain. However, if you are stressed about your finances, this increases cortisol production, increasing the inflammatory response in your body, increasing your pain (in an abbreviated nutshell), cycling back to point 2.
9. Doing something you love will decrease your pain. I don't know if there is research supporting this one. This is more from my own personal experience, and the stories of my patients. For example I LOVE Yoga, it keeps my brain happy which keeps my body happy. But, because I'm hypermobile a healthcare provider actually told me years ago to stop yoga so I wouldn't injure myself. Now this just fear based mentality and no way to live. However because I trusted them, I listened and followed through. I felt awful not just in my mind, but also in my body when I was not practicing for those few months. As soon as I said "screw that" and started Yoga again, that's when I started feeling better. So do what you love. It will take your mind off your pain, and give you something to look forward to. Here is the disclaimer- Don't go crazy here, listen to your body and stop before pain. Be smart about this! If it does cause pain, find a way to modify so you can still participate. If pain is always there, you might have to take break. I always tell my patients though- this is temporary until you heal. Then you slowly bring it back.
10. You are the only person able to interpret your pain. Your pain will feel different than someone else's pain. Which is why working with someone who creates individualized programs is extremely helpful. You need someone you trust to listen so you can communicate what is exactly going on and when. This is also why imaging results do not correlate to pain levels most of the time. Research shows those with high levels of back pain often have no positive imaging results (i.e. disc bulge, herniation), where those with these positive results can have no pain! It's not just in your head, it's actually in your brain and nervous system! Find someone to talk to that you trust, and believes in you.
There you have it. Hopefully you learned something. If you wish to consult with me 1:1 reply to this email or schedule a time to chat here: http://igniteurwellness.com/schedule-and-forms/
Semi-private classes at Ignite are now open for registration. Each class will be limited to 3 people. Class times are Tuesdays at 5PM and Wed. at 1230PM for 60 minutes. Register for class here: http://igniteurwellness.com/schedule-and-forms/
Do you have a friend in pain? Send them this email! For every referral that signs up with a package receive a free semi private class! Help them and help you- win/win!
See you on the mat!
Dr. Alison Mclean DPT, ERYT, HHP, C-IAYT owner if Ignite Wellness in Encinitas. Helping others to Get Well through physical therapy, yoga, massage and essential oils.