In many of my articles I have stated the importance of movement specifically through physical exercises or activity. For without movement activities, the body and mind will quickly deteriorate creating more aggravating pain while increasing risk for more illness or disease. There is a direct connection between the mind-body (psychosomatic) neurological meridian connections. I like to refer to these meridians as the “health highways” electrical conduits throughout the body. This is because mobility or lack of it can have an impact on positive “healing” nerve-holistic body stimulation, delay, or worsening of the healing process through these connections.
There are two fronts where lack of motion or mobility can impact overall health byway of these health highway connections. 1) Mind-Body connection – Depression can and does contribute to pain disease if you allow it to motivate a sedentary lifestyle; opposed to pain tolerance learned and applied appropriately provide greater mobility and health benefit. On the flip side, 2) Body-Mind – You “may not” be depressed but have severely limited your activities due to body function pain. In either case, lack of activity creates a negative impact on motivation, self-esteem, disease mitigation, quality of life and other health risks. Both ends of the “mind-body/body-mind” connection can turn full circle limiting activity, causing depression and can cause serious or grave harm to your overall health.
You must never give up on finding some form of activity, therapy and/or exercise within your day to offset further body degradation while maintaining a pain management program. Depression is a pain patient’s worst enemy (MAE Health Blog, “Dealing with Depression,” M.T. Woodard, 25 Aug 08). In my opinion, incorporation of a movement based therapy program is essential toward a holistic pain healing, or health maintenance program. For without a daily movement program it is very difficult for a pain patient to thwart off depression and worsening of pain! I do realize there are some that are completely incapacitated where my recommendations to increase activity or mobility may not be practical. However, I encourage and highly recommend you consult with your doctor, or specialists to see if they could assist, direct, or refer you toward specialized movement based therapy resources relative to your chronic pain condition.
Some examples of non-specialized movement based activities if your pain tolerances will allow full or partial participation: Gym membership, task specific exercise, i.e., walking, riding a recumbent stationary bike, low impact aerobics, e.g., treadmill, hand pedal stationary unit, bicycle and daily stretching exercise, etc. Hobbies/social – Camping, fishing, community involvement, church choir, hiking, travel, home and garden, etc. Find something that will get you excited about life and within acceptable pain tolerance that does not cause severe aggravation, or further damage to existing pain problems. Discuss these movement based activities with your pain specialists, etc., to assess your pain conditions before you incorporate any of these recommendations into your pain program. Just because you have varying levels of chronic pain, does not mean you are 100% “movement” disabled (MAE HealthBlog, “Disabilities & Public Perception,” M.T. Woodard, 7 July 2008).
Listed below are specialized movement based therapies to further your research and consideration of such program (s) within a customized pain management program while working with pain specialists and/or doctors.
1. Physical exercises or activity. Physical activity provides benefits to strengthening muscles, joints, ligament, tendons; oxygen-enriched blood to all cellular structures; improved structural alignment and release of natural feel good endorphins.
“You’re body produces natural and addictive chemicals that are optimally activated during exercise, or during increased activity: 1) Adrenaline a neurotransmitter and hormone produced by the adrenalin gland just above the kidneys, also known as norepinephrine and epinephrine (provides attention focus in brain). Together these chemicals activate your fight or flight stimulation designed to get the body out of a stressful situation, or survive an injury scenario. It acts as a natural pain killer, boosts oxygen and glucose fuel to brain, muscles and suppresses depression. 2) Dopamine is produced and synthesized in the brain which boosts positive behavior, cognition, motor activity, motivation, sleep, mood, learning and attention. 3) Serotonin is synthesized within the CNS (Central Nervous System). This chemical is also found in many mushrooms, plants, fruits and vegetables. Research shows Serotonin plays an important role in liver regeneration and induces cell division throughout the body (important for repair and healing of the body). Serotonins role as a neurotransmitter of the brain is to modulate anger, mood, aggression, sleep, sexuality, appetite and metabolism.” (MAE HealthBlog, “An Addictive Chemical to Stimulate Will Power,” M.T., Woodard, 22 Jan 2009).
“I know a lot of you out there are hurting with disabling pain thinking there is nothing more you can do to increase your physical activity, receive further health benefits and/or improve your health condition, or quality of life. There are solutions, but you have to want to become a mirror athlete as your number one goal. Remember a mirror athlete will use health management techniques customized within a pain management program to improve posture, alleviate pain, while improving, or contributing to overall health through daily activities and/or exercise maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul.”
My contention, if you can move segments of your body, you “can” receive a health benefit. If you suffer from depression, there is group support within the medical community and much information to be found in libraries or the Internet. If you’re on a pain management program, you “may be able” to reduce your daily pain prescription to allow focus on activities for periods of time in a day. (MAE HealthBlog, “Disabilities & Public Perception,” Woodard, 07 July 2008).
2. Physical Therapy – Since movement is central to good health, physical therapy focuses on rehabilitation, promotion of body movement, or exercise. The major pain alleviation modalities are manual handling, electrotherapy, massage, physical medicine, ultrasound, etc. Other areas of physical therapy specialization include: Health limitations due to cardiopulmonary, geriatrics, neurologic, orthopedic, pediatrics problems, burn patients and post surgical treatment in assisting with focus in habilitation, or rehabilitation (enable take care of oneself; restore to former state). Physical therapy includes the use of many variations, or singular pain treatment modalities to assist and stimulate healthy movement, while working through pain issues, recovery, rehabilitation, etc. Other areas of physical therapy specialization focus on psychological and emotional well-being activities. Therapy is performed by a licensed physical therapist (PT) or an assistant acting under PT direction. Offices and practices vary by demographic and specialties mentioned above, settings include: Hospices, industrial workplaces, outpatient clinics, offices, inpatient rehab facilities, extended care facilities, private homes, and education, also research centers.
3. Specialized and assisted movement programs.
a. Yoga, Indian meditation posing and stretching – Purification of the physical body or mind to strengthen the body, or well being as a whole unit. I will not go into the detailed specifics behind various Yoga philosophies as this is beyond the intent of information I’m providing you. If you want to learn more about Yoga philosophy and techniques I highly recommend you contact a Yoga studio, read books on Yoga, or research the Internet to become better informed how Yoga could benefit your well being. Yoga posing and stretching techniques have positive health benefits on the mind and body while alleviating pain. Positive mind focus through concentrated and careful body movement focuses energies on piece of mind while stimulating the natural physical healing cycle of the body.
b. Pilates, strengthening core muscles through resistive exercise routine – The premise of Pilates uses the mind to control the muscles. Since the program focuses on postural muscles; abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks, there is great benefit in body balance through strengthening these “core” major muscle groups which is essential to spine health. This program concentrates on breathing ensuring proper alignment of the spine while strengthening deep torso muscles. Pilates breathing techniques teaches the importance of continuous and deep breathing techniques as essential to remove toxins and provide oxygen enriched blood to maintain overall health and pain alleviation. Those with disabilities can apply a customized Pilate’s program to better aid in and improve overall function. One should “only” participate in a Pilate’s program while under the supervision of a certified instructor. If interested in learning more about the Pilates program research the largest certified Pilates program worldwide, Stott Pilates. Also see Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), which is an umbrella organization attempting to standardize certification worldwide.
c. Tai Chi, Chinese practice of slow movement and focus on balance. This program makes use of Soft Chinese internal martial arts where “chi” energy makes use of an opponent’s strength against them – Instead of using overpowering muscular force and strength to defend against an opponent, the body’s chi energy is effectively tapped where brute force is not necessary to protect oneself. The opposition’s strength is applied against forced assertion through focus and fluid motion during the defense. Tai Chi has many health benefits associated with this form of concentrated, low impact and fluid motion just through practicing concentrated movement techniques. The health and fitness benefits of Tai Chi exercise are well recognized worldwide without the physical strains associated with intense exercise. The benefits associated with the practice of Tai Chi’s relaxed movement techniques: Lowers stress levels, slows down aging, improves postural alignment, better breathing technique, pain alleviation, improved blood circulation, flexibility, etc. Disease prevention and/or health disorder mitigation: Arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular, etc. The theory of Tai Chi is based on traditional Chinese medicine, through the body’s electrical Chi meridians (neurological “health highways”) much in the way acupuncture is used to remove blockages that create pain in order to heal disease. Tai Chi exercises can be used to achieve the same results.
d. Feldenkrais – Efficiency of movement through specialized therapy. Physical well-being is established through movement patterns. Therapy focuses on assistance in re-learning more proficient movement behaviors as opposed to inefficient and negative health impact movement that may lead to further body degradation. Moshe Feldenkrais believes the mind and body are inseparable and as such every action is a single process of thinking, feeling, sensing and moving. As each action impacts ultimate health transmitted through the nervous system, therapeutic movement can reinforce, or even reinstate better health and well-being by activating healthy movement patterns by triggering past feeling and thinking behaviors. By shaping the body through active movement the whole (holistic) body, mind & soul receive the benefit. As prior to therapy, one may have been confused, fixated and maybe lacked purpose of being. Through Feldenkrais exercises a more relaxed and stress free holistic body creates a greater zest for life.
Common exercises include stretching, strengthening and aerobics. However a fundamental drawback is these exercises… They do not effectively improve our characteristic movement. In other words, you may be able to go through exercise where precision and exact movement may not be fluid, or within your pain range tolerance to perform certain moves, or movement characteristic of an unimpeded person. However, you do receive a health benefit by participating! General exercise routines very rarely improve useful functionality, while often aggravates habitual movement throughout the day. Inefficient action or movement can lead stiffness, aches and pains, arthritis, fatigue and limitations. Pain alleviation through Feldenkrais bases exploration of movement possibilities integrated with flexibility, strength and cardiopulmonary health is well worth consideration as a movement therapy incorporated into your pain management program.
By learning to sense self through proper relaxed movement one can sense proper balance, articulation, felt movement, tissue tension, pressure and pain. Hence if tension and aggravation is felt through improper movement, one can learn to correct the pattern that is creating pain through sensory feedback to the brain. Since Feldenkrais derives effortless pleasure in motion and holistic improvements compared to conventional stressful exercise those that participate in a program such as this want to continue to improve their abilities and overall well-being.
The key point I want you to take away from this read… Stay active; find an alternative movement based therapy, hobby, or interest to improve your quality of life through motion and/or exercise. Although there is a balance of pain tolerance one must learn to overcome during movement based therapies… Specialized movement techniques are well worth the exploration and research to consider participation. Through movement, one can relearn to mobilize and heal themselves through acceptable, low impact pain sensory rehabilitative feedback exercises, and/or activity. I believe any movement therapy, or activity has a direct connection between the mind and body through neurological “Health Highways” establishing healing energy (Chi) to damaged tissues while alleviating pain and mitigating illness and disease. Using non-stressful movement techniques or other activity participation “in my opinion” will improve well-being and should be included within any pain management program if at all possible.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET. 2009 Copyright, All rights reserved. Mirror Athlete Enterprises Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your free eNewsletter.