Exercise & Prevention
Breathing Exercises--People who are under stress or in pain tend to take quick, shallow breaths. Rather than using their diaphragm, the large transverse muscle below their rib cage and above their stomach, they use accessory muscles of the neck and shoulders. This is done unconsciously because the nervous system is stuck in the "fight or flight" response, an automatic response which activates when a person is anxious or in pain. This, in turn, triggers the muscles to tense up, as if they were preparing to fight or run for their lives. The good news is that you can learn to turn this response off, and become calm and relaxed again. It only takes a few minutes of instruction, and practice, and you will have an indispensable tool that you can use anywhere, anytime, to bring you back to a calm and balanced state of mind and body. The more you practice these techniques, you will find that you can actually prevent pain symptoms or anxiety before they start.
Progressive muscle relaxation--The goal of this exercise is to make you aware of the tension that you may be holding onto in various parts of your body, so that you can then learn how to voluntarily release that chronic tension, and decrease your pain level or even prevent your pain symptoms. It is done lying down or sitting in a chair, in a quiet room. Using a soothing voice to guide you, your therapist will teach you how to tense a muscle group, hold it for a count of 5 seconds, and then release the tension. Generally this process will be repeated once or twice more before going onto the next muscle group. The progression starts with the head, neck, and arms, and then moves down towards the stomach and legs. Your therapist may emphasize certain muscle groups more or less, depending on your symptoms, and where you tend to hold tension in your body. The session can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on individual needs. The goal is to teach the client how to do this exercise at home, or by themselves whenever they feel stressed.
Individualized Exercise Instruction--to prevent pain.
Gentle Stretching Exercises should be part of your daily routine to break up positions that put you at risk, like sitting too long, using a computer, or any repetitive work activities. Stretch to prevent and to treat pain and to counteract stiffness. It is best to have a stretching routine that is designed just for you, since everyone is unique, and each person has a different tolerance level. With exercise, generally, it is not "one size fits all." So it is important to have an individualized exercise program developed for you by your therapist. Once you have learned how to do the stretches correctly, you may find yourself even looking forward to doing them. Stretching exercises done correctly can decrease pain and myofascial tightness, increase flexibility and everyday function, and prevent pain and reinjury. Strengthening & Aerobic ExerciseWhere there is specific muscle weakness due to injury or lack of use from pain, it may be helpful to have your therapist show you specific individualized exercises to correct the muscle imbalances and tightness. Low impact aerobic exercises such as walking or swimming are also good for increasing strength and cardiovascular endurance while preventing pain.
Ergonomics-- Posture & Body Mechanics at Home & Work to Prevent Pain & Injury
This article by the Colorado Spine Institute is a good reminder about how to use our body properly to prevent injury. However, if pain and limitation of motion from an accident or repetitive overuse injury has made it impossible to turn your neck or straighten up when you get up from sitting, you need treatment by an experienced therapist to help your body function properly again without pain. Craniosacral therapy & myofascial release are great techniques to get you on the road to recovery and a happy and healthy life. Exercise and ergonomic teaching combine to help you stay healthy, pain-free and active. When pain from a physical injury affects your emotions and mental outlook, then healing prayer, an open mind, and a empathetic therapist can help.