I am very dedicated to fitness and a very active lifestyle that includes hiking, swimming, skiing, running, and the occasional triathlon. It would be a great loss to me if I could no longer do these activities. I can totally relate to individuals who come to me because their physical way of life has changed due to some injury or condition.
I have overcome my share of physical challenges including 20 years of chronic low back pain, 3 torn menisci, torn ankle ligaments, a broken hand, and a torn quad. I have successfully rehabbed all of the above without any surgery or medication. I keep myself fit and active with good body mechanics and my ability to improve soft tissue with my touch. I have used my training in Core Movement Integration to create optimum movement accommodations to each physical challenge. I call this the “work around” approach. The diagnosis and MRI are the same, but any pain and dysfunction are gone.
If your low back aches due to overuse, spreading the load between the legs, pelvis and whole spine makes the painful become comfortable. In my 20s I couldn’t stand 15 minutes without my back aching. My MRI looked like everyone else with back pain: bulging discs, stenosis, degenerative disc disease etc. Despite these physical problems I can still do everything that I did as a youth. I still do an annual sprint triathlon, completed a couple of marathons and work 8 -12 hours a day in a physical occupation which requires bending forward all day.
I find it sad to see people come to me with stories of pain and a lost way of life. For example: a 67 year old man approaching retirement was worried that he won’t be able to hunt, fish, and hike due to back pain. How could he enjoy his increased leisure time? He already had one back operation and doesn’t want another. An evaluation reveals that he never relaxes his low back. His pattern is to “protect” the spine by a chronic contraction. It is the compensation that is the problem. Finding alternative ways to feel “safe” while moving allows his muscles to relax and enables him to have an active lifestyle in retirement.
This is a type of kinesiophobia. A physical problem has existed for so many years that the very thought of certain activities makes them stiffen. The actual physical injury may have healed but the fear of pain stops normal functioning. They can no longer enjoy that activity.
All too often a person is diagnosed from X-rays and sophisticated imagery that doesn’t fully take into account the profound ability of the human body to heal itself. I believe that we are all capable of change. Our bodies respond to stress by adapting. Just look at a body builder. The muscles get bigger as a response to the stress of lifting weights. We also respond to negative or excessive stress. The stress of bad posture for example can sabotage our desire to heal a back problem. Our habitual posture and pattern of movement prevent the body from getting back to a pain free state. This is an often overlooked cause of chronic pain.
My job is to use very subtle techniques to reveal a person’s negative holding pattern. Armed with this awareness I can then work with this individual to relax the problem area, both on the massage table and in the movement that they want to perform. The most common movement that people come to me for help is walking. Whether it is ankle pain, spinal pain or headaches related to walking, there is almost always a better way of using the whole body to relieve the strain and resultant pain on the overworked muscle or joint. Other activities that I see are sitting, standing, running, golf, yoga, and general exercise.
I firmly believe there is always a way to bypass our physical challenges and enjoy an active life. Look at all these determined amputees doing 135 mile ultra marathons on artificial limbs. This is a message of optimism and hope. It is what keeps me passionate about my work.