This is a blog I have been meaning to write for some time now. In a busy clinic, we see lots of people come in with a variety of serious injuries. But we also see a cohort of clients suffering from aches and pains caused by everyday life and work. One thing both these groups of people have in common is how they react to the pain of injury.
Our first natural instinct is to protect the area that is causing us pain. In most cases that means reducing the amount of movement/exercise we do involving both that specific area, and in general. We’ve all been there; we wake up with a stiff and sore shoulder and spend the whole day afraid to move it, holding our arm at our side and asking someone to reach up and get the packet of biscuits for us! But is this the right thing to do?
Exercise reducing pain?
There is now a body of evidence that exercise can actually REDUCE pain levels. A common experience in my clinic is the client that has some back pain. After a short period of time they usually end up in bed or on the couch trying not to move. This is not a fault of the patient. There is a widespread belief that with back pain we need to rest, limit movement and generally protect the area. But, often this is the WORST thing you can do with back pain. While I’m not suggesting that someone who finds themselves with a sore back heads straight for the gym and starts deadlifting (although deadlifts are a great exercise for building lower back strength and can be used for long term improvement), some simple movement exercises can be done which can help alleviate the stiffness and pain.
There are many myths that surround back pain, including that it is easily injured and that we should avoid twisting and using our lower back. And some of these myths have been fed into mainstream belief (check out my previous blog here discussing some of the main myths surrounding back pain, https://rebuildclinic.ie/thoughts-back-pain/) . This leads to hypersensitivity around pain that is especially prominent with back pain. When we get sore and we stop moving we add to this hypersensitivity, making everyday activities a scary and worrying experience. Here is a great quote from Paul Ingraham 
…..for every case like this there must be hundreds more where the injury is real but the patient is convinced that the damage is much worse than it really is — with proportionately exaggerated pain. And indeed there is evidence of this: in a 2012 experiment, for instance, fear of pain made people more sore for longer after a workout.
So essentially, if you have a fear about pain (as a lot of people do when it comes to back pain), you are more likely to feel this pain more intensely!
So the next time you find yourself with a sore shoulder or neck, try a little bit of movement or even a little bit of exercise and see if this helps. Remember, pain does not mean damage! Even if you do an activity and it causes you some pain, it doesn’t mean that you have damaged the structure! Don’t be afraid of doing, of moving and of using your body. Of course you are going to get injuries that actually do require a period of rest but that doesn’t mean all activity should be stopped. If you can’t run because of an injury, replace it another form of cross training and keep the muscles and joints mobile. Or maybe do some weights and get some benefit from a new stimulus. And remember, movement is king!