I suppose no one really needs an injury to learn about movement quality and the importance of adhering to healthy patterning and variety; however, if we address injuries from a functional perspective, we can start to create a paradigm through which to view pain and healing.
It turns out we can learn a whole bunch from pain. Pain is a great teacher, and we can be great students to complement the process of healing and moving well! What we know is that pain can leap out at us for a number of reasons. And, no, it does not necessarily mean something is “wrong” with a given body part. Sometimes our bodies are not used to moving in a certain way, and pain is the body’s way of telling us to slow down. Sometimes we have simply repeated the same type of movement pattern (perhaps without the proper bracing/tension creation strategies) so much that our body sends pain signals as a way of saying, “Hey, man, you need some more variety and nuance in your movement!” In some situations, we might experience pain at one joint, while the neighboring joint might really be the culprit of the issue! I never said pain was simple-minded or straightforward.
So, let’s address some common issues that we see crop up amongst the Achieve community.
A lot of folks have experienced a case of an angry knee. In some cases, I’ve heard people talk about their knees as though they are outlaws incapable of discipline and correction. Listen, your knees are constantly working on your behalf day in and day out, so let’s show them some love and compassion! If your knee hurts, it’s hard to always say why, and I think that the question of why is not always the most important one. The important question for us to ask is, how can we modify an exercise and give your body input that will turn off those pain signals that your brain sends out?
As an example, “Patellafemoral Pain Syndrome” is a term that gets thrown around by a lot of physicians and PTs to describe certain knee pain. Fine - it’s just a label. We don’t need to give more power to pain by identifying with those labels. All this means is that we can do plenty of hip-dominant exercises that will help to stabilize the knee and move in a way that helps mitigate the pain you are feeling. An appropriate movement might be a standard deadlift or a single leg deadlift, or Romanian deadlift. Step-ups onto a box are often a good replacement for a lunge variation that might aggravate one’s knee. The point is, there are plenty of exercises to explore that will be super beneficial to your body as a whole, and that includes the affected joint.
Another example is low back pain. We hear about this all the time. I, myself, have experienced instances of low back pain after a combination of KB swings, deadlifts, and playing football. Those activities are, at the end of the day, taxing on my body! Sometimes, what the brain needs is simply a signal that moving through a certain range of motion, unloaded, is perfectly fine! We have a lot of people doing prone cobra “press ups” from the floor as a way to mitigate pain in this way (as long as extension feels okay in this capacity). By allowing the low back to get into an extended position without any load (i.e. we’re not adding extra weight with a barbell), we can send signals to the brain that says, “Hey, it’s alright to be in this position”. The same thing goes for Cat/Cows. Moving through a range of motion that feels good when unloaded is the way to go! As long as we can complement that activation with the ability to stabilize when we are actually loading your spine with weight, then we can craft a new pathway for your brain to conceptualize movement, and hopefully steer clear of those pain signals.
Pain, to me, is merely an opportunity to learn how to be more cognizant of movement and to strengthen areas that might have been neglected for some time. Chat with a coach anytime about strategies to promote pain-free movement!