January can bring with it daunting prospects of drastic New Years’ resolutions and promises to get fit after the over-indulgence of Christmas. As Rehabilitation Therapists, we often see injuries caused by over-exercising or training in a way that doesn’t protect existing pains or niggles. This can really dent your motivation and your ability to achieve a healthier, and more sustainable lifestyle.
At Balanced Bodies Injury Rehabilitation, we’re all about listening to the body and using exercise to support and protect those sensitive areas in a way that works for you. This year, we’re encouraging our community to start their New Years’ resolutions now for a more gradual, consistent and sustainable approach to a healthier lifestyle come 2021.
Throughout the pandemic, many of us have faced challenges with our health, both mentally and physically. From changes to working environments, to job losses, to bereavement and lockdowns, it’s fair to say that 2020 has left us with the hope of brighter prospects for 2021.
So, let’s make sure we’re starting 2021 feeling strong, healthy and happy.
People often think that when you go to see a Rehabilitation Therapist their work is going to be purely a physical treatment i.e., a massage or an exercise. You might be surprised to know that we actually wear multiple hats! A regular feature of my work is clients with chronic pain.
The definition of chronic (or persistent) pain is: pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks regardless of treatment or medication but it can be far more complex than this.
Having personally lived with chronic pain for over a decade, I feel driven to support these clients. I can relate to the feelings of despair, frustration, anxiety and anger that it generates. I regularly support clients like Peter, who come to me with chronic pain because of injuries across multiple body parts.
For Peter (and others like him), some of this pain was neurological and can manifest as pins and needles, numbness, altered sensation or sharp shooting pains. Other elements of his experience were mechanical via tight muscles and incredibly sore joints. All too common with chronic pain caused by an MSK injury, the original injured tissue had healed but the nerves got stuck in a never-ending feedback loop of pain signals.
Where pain alters movement patterns, people can go on to acquire further injuries from altered biomechanics.
With Peter, we started from zero giving him the opportunity to share his whole story, not just the bits that were connected to a specific body part.
Just having the space to talk and to be heard often can have a powerful impact on people. It also helps foster trust and gives me an insight into how everything started. With Peter, we were able to start addressing some of the pain with manual therapy.
By using gentle repetitive joint movements (mobilisations) we created a pain free window (by triggering the body’s own natural pain killing systems) for Peter to start moving more easily. Peter gradually progressed those movements from stretching and mobility work, to restore more normal ranges of movement to his joints, through to strengthening. This did not stop the pain, but it did help to reduce it.
In parallel, we worked with Peter to tackle other elements that can help to manage and reduce chronic pain. By tackling topics such as sleep, nutrition, activity pacing, and mindfulness Peter was able to start taking back control of the pain.
In Peter’s case, he found mindfulness to be of particular benefit. Mindfulness tackles the Central Nervous System through measured breathing activities.
When the Sympathetic Nervous System is in overdrive (think “fight or flight”) over extended periods of time because of stress, anxiety, and pain it is physically translates into the body e.g., tight muscles.
With mindfulness, the technique of using your breathing, the Para-Sympathetic Nervous System is activated overriding the fight or flight response. It is a learned skill that takes practice but over time it can be a powerful tool in helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
For Peter, it helped to change his relationship with his persistent pain. Peter’s journey is not finished but he is already engaging in normal activities without living in fear of painful flare ups. He is in control and starting to engage with his life again.
Here’s 5 ways you can start your journey to enter 2021 feeling healthier and happier life just like Peter!
Ever felt your work stress transfer into your neck or shoulders? Well, the same mind-body connection can be used to do the opposite and help your body and thus your mind relax.
Mindfulness is type of meditation that encourages an awareness of the senses, feelings and emotions without judgement. It uses our breath to slow everything down. Numerous studies have evidenced a relationship between mindfulness and the regulation of our central nervous system and it is particularly helpful in addressing muscle tension!
Mindfulness can take practice so introducing it into your daily life is a great way to help manage stress. With guided meditations and deep breathing practices, The Smiling Mind app can help your Para-Sympathetic Nervous System override elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline that are related to stress. Learn more about the Smiling Mind app here: https://www.smilingmind.com.au/smiling-mind-app
Be wary of your existing injuries
Home workouts can be great for getting the body moving after a day of working from home, however it’s important to be careful about how you exercise. Be mindful about any existing injuries, niggles or pains and start gently. A lot of injuries we see are from people adopting a new intense workout too enthusiastically, often without adding in warm ups and cool downs.
Without a class leader or coach who is aware of any existing injuries, it can be hard to identify when an exercise may cause you additional damage.
Seek assistance if you’re not sure
The best way to avoid injury is to gradually build the intensity of your workouts so your muscles can strengthen to protect your joints, which are our biological scaffolding.
Try the following:
- Making gradual incremental changes i.e. focus on changing one thing at a time of the following: sets, reps, rest period or resistance level
- Add in a training diary where you keep track of what you did in your last session so you can make sure you progress something in the next session.
- Introduce variety! If you are in the gym and go 3 times a week, have 3 different work out plans to give variety.
- Don’t forget the magic happens on your rest days – it can feel counter intuitive but it is essential to add in rest days.
- Stick to a format: Warm up to get the blood pumping, mobilisation to free up the joints, strength component (upper, lower, core – pick your poison) and a cool down and stretch out.
There are plenty of great gyms out there with some fabulous trainers to help you but if you’re in doubt about what type of exercise would be right for you get in touch with us for a chat – we are happy to help! Plus, we run our own exercise classes to guide people through a successful exercise programme – check out our virtual class timetable below:
Listen to your body
Paying attention to our body’s early warning system (pain) is a great way to head off more severe injuries. The next time you have pain that just doesn’t go away – please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free consult. We can help you figure out whether your pain is a one off and nothing to worry about or whether you would benefit from some injury rehabilitation. Please don’t train through the pain, it rarely ends well.
And, if you feel like you need to give a particular muscle, joint or body part a break but still want to keep moving, try implementing active rest days into your routine. Active rest days normally include light exercise such as walking or non-intensive cycling and can help you stay active whilst also easing stiffness.
Know that you’re not alone
We know this year has been incredibly challenging for so many people when it comes to finding the motivation to exercise and at Balanced Bodies Injury Rehabilitation, we don’t want you to feel alone. It might seem silly to stand in front of your laptop doing exercise but we’ve found our virtual classes have been incredibly successful in keeping our clients motivated to move and to support each other.
Fancy giving it a go? Have a browse of our available classes here and book in by calling me at the number just below the Class Guide:
If you’re struggling with chronic pain like Peter and you just don’t know what to do, give these 5 things a try and please do get in touch to hear about how we can help you specifically. No one should be in pain so Balanced Bodies Injury Rehabilitation are here for you whenever you need – call now for a free 20-minute consultation or to book in a session with us.
To book an appointment either complete the Contact Form at the link below or call me on 07397 325 790 to discuss improving your health and injury rehabilitation into 2021