Tuesday 23 May 2017

I'm Not Ready For Exercise

"I'm not quite ready for exercise rehab yet."

I've been told these words before. Potential clients are often seeking treatment elsewhere, are waiting for surgery, or are simply trying to find a working medication before commencing an exercise rehab program with the idea that they need to find alternative pain relief first before coming to see me.

Honestly, I understand where this is coming from. For many people who are unaccustomed to regular physical activity in the first place, the word "exercise" carries a certain stigma that creates nerves and anxiety - especially when a high amount of pain is currently present.

It's a social bias, really, and one that is likely propagated by media and pop culture. When people think "exercise", their heads often immediately go to Rocky montages, Arnold videos, and "hardcore" Youtube workout clips. Fairly enough, modern ideals tell us that exercise means heavy squats, deadlifts, and Olympic lifting, but this misconception may be impairing recovery for many individuals.

Ignore the grinding in your spine and give me 100 more!

I think it's obvious that I don't expect someone with debilitating back pain to be ok with being thrown into an intensive barbell workout routine. However, the idea of even basic exercises is intimidating to many people seeking pain relief, especially if those people are in severe chronic pain. When every movement hurts, how can they be expected to follow a strength program with a sets-and-reps scheme?

The thing to realize is that "exercise" does not necessarily mean big movements with heavy (or any) weights. As an Athletic Therapist, my job is to use exercise to retrain the body to manage pain. The fact that you're in a large amount of pain already does not condone not doing it; it means we modify the movement until it doesn't hurt. By not intervening into the the existing problem with exercise, how else is the body going to change its (potentially) pain-causing habits?

Often, with low-functioning clients, exercise won't even entail much movement at all. With many individuals, you'd be amazed at the progress made by some of the smallest muscles contractions; seated core bracing and diaphragm breathing to alleviate back pain, chin tucks and shoulder setting to stabilize the neck; even eye movements to help with whiplash migraines!

So no, I'll argue that no one should feel barred by exercise. (Certain bed-ridden and immobilized conditions being the exception, of course.) The right therapist will always be able to provide you with something at your level that you can do, regardless of that level being high or low. Your body is it's own best medicine.

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