The most common reaction is to stop using it or doing that. It’s even the advice of many medical professionals. Rest, it is assumed, is a cure all. But what happens when this magic pill doesn’t work? When the pain persists doing regular every day activities? When the advice or the instinct fails?
Some gut it through and learn to live with the pain, ramping up their tolerance and threshold of ‘normal.’ Some simply stop doing the things they used to, even the things they loved and kept them sane. The result from either of these tactics is becoming less than and lowering the quality of life.
You could Google or YouTube your issue and try a few things that pop up. But is it explained that what is shown there is a piece of a whole? That there’s a massive part of the iceberg that you don’t see? You could also DM a seemingly knowledgeable person on instagram to see if they can help. But if their first response isn’t asking YOU a bunch of questions before doling out advice, they’re treating the problem as a protocol, not a person.
You must consider your specific body to find a specific solution.
There are systems at play. Your body, and the consistent way it is used, is one system. Because it is us, it is hard to understand. We’re not sure what to look for or pay attention to. The second system is the imposed demands that are placed upon the body. Your ‘rules for living’. How you behave and the environment in which your body generally exists. These two systems are constantly interacting with each other, defining and influencing courses of action.
The following questions are intended to help guide you toward a better understanding of issues through a better understanding of yourself.
1. How does it feel when you wake up in the morning?
If it is worst upon waking (or sitting for a long period of time) but gets better as you move around, movement is the answer. If the issue is non-existent upon waking and gets worse as you move around, the way you are loading/ using that tissue is the problem. Unless the cause is something pinpointed and acute (your thigh hurts because it was hit with a baseball bat yesterday), the solution is embedded in the HOW you are moving it, not in the absence of movement.
2. Is the inability to relax the bigger problem?
Sleeping is where the alchemy of recovery happens. Not sleeping well is linked to a difficulty relaxing. If you can’t relax, you can’t let go, and if you can’t let go you harbor tensions. There is a warning and alarm that coincides with pain, demanding that you notice it. It makes us cautious. The inability to calm these hypervigilant sensors leads to expansive stiffness (which feeds into further anxiety and apprehension).
Progressive relaxation and breathing techniques are a powerful means to combat this. Becoming aware of how locked ‘on’ you are is revelatory. It is difficult to fathom that relaxing takes work and effort. You can’t know what deeper sleep rest is until you experience it, which is why so many consider nothing is wrong with their sleep (a sidebar to posture).
3. How is it affected by rotation?
The holy grail. Once you start to recognize that opening and closing (flexing and extending) actually works in conjunction with rotation, you realize all of the options that are available (as well as all the ones previously missed). Rotations of parts within wholes unlock sticking points and create space. It allows and assists movement instead of restricting and resisting it.
The following is an recent example from a fellow gym goer:
“I think I have tendonitis, and all I see you doing in here is stretching, so I thought you could help.”
“What hurts and when does it hurt?”
“Around my elbow when I do bicep curls.”
“When you hold your elbows at 90-degrees, palms up, does it bother you?”
Video continuation of problem finding and solving:
4. Can you find a loaded position in which it feels pleasant?
More of the same will lead you to more of the same. Your body is asking for different. We confuse dosage with the antidote. It’s not about work done, it’s about how the work is done. (Remember what was being consistently done to lead you to this situation in the first place.)
Using a wall or the ground, keep adjusting the load or force you impart into it until you find a specific position that is relieving. Stay there and stay with it. Finding and memorizing these paths is where the attention and effort should lie. Learning how to first recognize and ‘get rid of the weeds’ is an easier form of maintenance than letting things go until they’re overwhelming. [First, of course, we must appreciate and value our yard before we can effectively care for it.]
5. Are you willing to enter into the discomfort?
The most defining question of the lot. The answer, and your reaction to it, speaks volumes about your perceived competence to care for your self.
I don’t know what to do. I’ll make it worse. These indicate an admitted lack of strategy. The FEAR is realizing that you don’t know how your own body works.
What have I done to myself? What will this do to me? These indicate separation and disassociation. The FEAR is self-destruction and lack of control.
Stupid __________ (insert body part here). Personified, this indicates self-hatred. The FEAR is that no one can help you, and despite your best efforts, you can’t help yourself. Trying to listen only yields further frustration.
We are threatened that this is the beginning of the end, and this self-talk, unchallenged or understood, spirals into a self-fulfilling prophesy. Should we reach the point where we see a physician, and after a series of ‘medical’ tests they tell you you are fine, things REALLY go to sh*t. They’re looking at the wrong aspects of health. Labs, scans, and x-rays looking at blood markers and structural deformities do not examine movement. This is where you have to start making your own investigations. Zoning in on the details of which motions make things feel better or worse is the key toward getting to the bottom of things.