By Shellie L. Rosen, PhD., DOM, L.Ac.
It is common to limit activity and movement to avoid pain. However, movement facilitates healing and supports various body functions.
Many find help using over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS); others need prescription-strength solutions for movement and pain mitigation. Medications, while helpful, disrupt communications within the body’s nervous system. In some cases, medication masks pain resulting from movements that cause more inflammation. In other cases, drugs impede communication, leading to nerve and muscle atrophy. Implementing appropriate movement is an excellent supplemental treatment to reconnect body intelligence, initiate healing, and prevent (or reverse) nerve and muscle loss.
Pain develops from sensory nerves in the peripheral nervous system (the skin, tissue, and muscle) that communicate chemically through nerve fibers based on local “impressions.” The chemicals reach areas of the brain for interpretation, which involves logic and emotion. New pain develops from our historical understanding. Therefore, our experience of pain is somewhat ingrained but holds the potential for change.
The pain from hitting your thumb with a hammer is understandable, but indirect pain is more complicated. For example, pain in a tendon, ligament, muscle, or facia from repetitive motion, inflammation, viral infection, or physical overload can be impossible to identify. What are the causes and locations of pain? Is it a nerve, a muscle, or both? Are you restricting movement out of a fear of the unknown? Previous trauma or chronic pain can cause a fear of discomfort. Recognizing the self-protective aspect of fear is a form of “listening” that can determine the difference between discomfort and danger. Mobility exercises may bring discomfort but should never bring severe pain.
If you have a precarious injury or a recent surgery, begin with mobility guidance from your doctor or surgeon. A professional physical therapist can demonstrate exercises for particular conditions. Look for qualified professionals if you turn to the internet for help.
Some movements will lead to health, and others will sabotage progress if done inappropriately. Use intuition to initiate slow movements integrating bone, muscle, nerve, and fascial mobility. Nerve flossing is a mobility technique that involves small distal movements and is a safe way to protect impinged nerves while keeping them moving. Focus mobility on nearby regions for bone-on-bone conditions and do not aggravate bone friction.
You will see long-term benefits if you commit to a mobility exercise program. Pain may increase in the initial stages as fascial adhesions release and scar tissue breaks down, but exercises should quickly become manageable with less pain and resistance. Movement can take place anywhere, including a bed or chair. Remember, your logical and emotional memory of pain is evolving. Gentle movement with self-love and deep listening increases body communication and facilitates healing. Your body and your pain love mobility. Abundant Blessings.