I don’t know about you, but pretty much the last thing I want to do when I’m in pain is to move my body. While I know that most of the time getting some movement in that area will help the discomfort go away, that’s not always the case for me. And I don’t know which way it’s going to go until I’m on the other side of the movement – usually the next day.
But here’s what I do know: Nine times out of ten that movement will give me long-term benefits, especially if I’m moving with awareness and caution.
I’ve noticed that my muscles tend to get tighter in the areas surrounding the issue. It’s my body’s natural way to protect itself. An example of this would be how my back muscles are tight in the area surrounding where my spinal fracture was *almost a decade ago*, as a way of protecting that area from further pain and discomfort.
Pain obviously isn’t just from an injury. When we have inflammation in our bodies, the swelling can press upon the nerve endings which, in turn, causes us pain.
Even if we could deal with the discomfort and pain associated with our inflammation, we definitely don’t want to suck it up and ignore it. As inflammation continues in the body, it can damage our organs, joints, and arteries, just to name a few of the major implications. If it’s not handled, it contributes to heart disease, diabetes, cancer… you get the idea.
According to the knowledgeable folks at Scripps, getting movement in daily – but at least 4 times a week – can really help reduce inflammation. Ideally that includes 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise and 10-25 minutes of weight training. If you watched my interview with Dr. Agatep from last week (click here if ya missed it), you’ll remember him saying that it’s still impactful if we break up the movements into “snack-sized” segments. So this means that if you don’t have time in your day to do 30 minutes straight, you can do 10 minutes here, another 10 there, and still another 10 minutes later in the day.
On the days when getting cardio in isn’t possible because your discomfort levels are just too high, here are some movement options that can help take the edge off, if not eliminate the pain altogether:
*Soft stretching – If you’ve ever taken my Gentle Stretch class, you’ll know exactly how much better you can feel after getting some mellow movements into your whole body. It doesn’t take much to stretch out. And the extra bonus is that your mind will calm down in the process, which also helps with pain levels. These classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11a PT if you want to give it a try.
*Rolling it out with balls – When I had the studio, we had a fantastic class that used Yoga TuneUp balls. If you happen to have purchased a set of your own, break these babies out and get rolling. Don’t have a set? Not a problem. Using a (clean) tennis ball as a massage tool works wonders. You can lay on the floor and roll around (being sure you’re doing the same things on both sides of the body); or if the floor is too intense, you can use the wall or a door frame instead.
*Self massage – Whether you’re massaging your muscles or moving your fascia around, simply getting down with your bad self can work small miracles. Learn more about fascia in this fantastic interview I had with Cheryl McMurray earlier this year.
*Restorative yoga – Grab a ton of blankets and pillows, then settle in with a soft restorative yoga class. While we don’t have one currently on the TW schedule, there’s lots of info out there to create your own unique practice.
*Yin yoga – While not restorative in the traditional sense, Yin yoga works with the connective tissues in the body (think: skin, ligaments, and tendons) rather than stretching muscles. Poses are done either seated or laying down and are generally held for several minutes. An example would be if you’re laying down on your back and do a twist, and then hold it for 3-5 minutes on each side. From the outside it looks easy, but it’s a stealthy movement technique. To give it a try, check out Andrew’s class on Tuesdays at 5:30p PT. He alternates focusing on the hips one week and then the spine the next, giving you a delicious variety to help you feel good.
*Organic movements – I know it’s lovely to be led in a movement sequence, but sometimes it’s also nice to do it on your own. Schedule your own personal movement session, grab your mat, and just begin to move. Don’t overthink it, just listen to your body. If something hurts, stop. If it feels good, do it again on the other side. I could get more technical on alignment stuff, but to keep it simple here, just move around and really listen to your body’s discussion.
While discontinuing movement is sometimes required, stopping altogether will likely do more harm than good. If you have specific questions regarding what’s appropriate for your body, be sure to talk with a trusted doctor who can advise you on what’s safest for your needs. Under their advice, and listening to your intuition and your body’s cues, you’ll feel fantastic in no time.