After an injury it is our natural inclination to ‘baby it’. Treading lightly and with great care we avoid any movements or jostling that may cause aggravation. This a normal part of the healing process.
Depending on the severity of the injury and the length of time required to heal tissue damage, we may create habits of compensation to avoid setting off our natural danger signals. When movements trigger pain we begin to fear those movements. It’s not that we fear the movement itself, but the pain we’ve come to associate with those movements. Naturally, we seek other ways to move in order to avoid the movement that triggers discomfort. This fear avoidance causes a feedback loop to develop.
In order to break the cycle, the body needs to embrace nourishing, non-threatening movement explorations with a healthy dose of neuroplasticity.
What is Non Threatening Movement?
Non threatening movement is pleasurable, natural movement that the body craves. It is everything that your body is built to do; walk, run, climb, twist, bend, stretch, and more.
Did the very thought of doing one of those instantly create discomfort? Did one of those words cause that fear avoidance response to quiver in your gut and make your heart flutter?
If the painful area is not bruised, swollen, oozing fluids, and is otherwise healed from tissue damage, or if it does not have hardware issues like nuts and plates or severely degenerated joints and connective tissues; it is time to nudge away from fear avoidance and into non threatening movement explorations.
This is simply an exercise or an exploration of working with your Systems and their protective responses to trauma. Encouraging healthy movement without inducing pain and fear is a subtle reeducation and artful practice of neuroplasticity.
In order to begin this exploration you will need to find a movement that triggers discomfort. This is a movement that you tend to avoid, but does not have any issues as previously discussed.
Take a deep breath. Exhale while slowly and mindfully moving into the edge just before pain begins. Where it becomes slightly uncomfortable, pause and acknowledge that there is discomfort, but don’t fearfully whip yourself out of the position. This is the fear avoidance at play and we are working to reeducate this response for a more fulfilling outcome. Realize that, in that moment, you are safe in your environment. You are not actively trying to induce trauma and are simply exploring the movement’s boundaries.
Take a deep breath and slowly move out of the position of discomfort. If the movement is available to you, move as far into the opposing movement as possible with a gentle stretch into the endpoint. An example of this is someone with back pain and bending forward to reach for something they’ve dropped to the ground. This person would want to exhale into an extension like a deep morning stretch, bringing the arms up overhead and back.
Repeating these movement explorations allow you to effectively reeducate your movement ability. You are able to move into spaces you may have previously forgotten you have the ability to access, increasing your range of motion. You will notice that you are able to move further into movement before discomfort is triggered. Your fear avoidance will steadily decrease as you are able to move freely and effortlessly into and out of these movements.
It is a gentle, non-invasive, yet incredibly effective complement to any therapy you are currently receiving.
A complement to your therapy.
These simple movement explorations can be added to your own therapy sessions as a Movement Professional or as someone experiencing painful movement. It enhances the neuro therapies and soft tissue work, improves function, and encourages active participation in self-care at home.
Whenever something gives you a twinge, give this a try and see if you are able to desensitize your response by working with your Systems instead of pushing through the pain.