Does working out make your pain worse?
Exercise is supposed to be healthy. We are told to get to the gym and get moving in order to feel good and stay fit.
So why can exercise add to the pain instead of lessen it?
Exercise is Not One Size Fits All
If you have lived with stubborn pain for any length of time, chances are you have tried some sort of exercise to fix the pain.
Maybe you started going to yoga. Maybe you figured that core work with Pilates would solve your problem. Or maybe you looked up physical therapy exercises for whatever body part is hurting.
But none of it worked…in fact, the pain got worse.
Why? How can the pain get worse when you are putting in the effort to get better and take care of your body?
Yoga, Pilates, physical therapy exercises, or going to the gym are all great tools, but when using them for addressing pain, there are some deeper issues to consider.
Too Much Stress Not Enough Release
In a previous post, I mentioned two broad categories of [underlying physical pain]. One of those categories was the nervous system. All too often modern individuals are in a constant state of being stressed out – the nervous system is upregulated.
Wake up with a blaring alarm, drink coffee, run out the door and keep busy all day. When we finally sit down to relax, we continue the stream of input with TV or our phones. Our biology responds to these demands with the stress hormones.
Having stress is not a bad thing. Having constant stress and not being able to calm down into a restorative state is a problem.
Stress tightens your body. It makes you constrict. Think about the knots in your shoulders from having your shoulders pulled up all day.
When your body is stressed for a prolonged period it adds to pain. It’s not just your shoulders or neck that get tight.
Exercise, as good as it is, represents another form of stress for the body. Under ideal circumstances, it is a positive stress that leads to good changes. When exercise is layered into an already too stressed out life, it may be just one more burden for your body to carry.
Left vs. Right
The second category of [underlying physical pain] is asymmetry. In short, most of us are stronger on one side vs. the other. We are tighter on one side vs. the other.
Almost all exercise, however, works both sides the same. Yoga, Pilates, and exercise equipment at the gym are all symmetrical movements.
Symmetrical movement with a body that is already asymmetrical only further ingrains the imbalance. Yes, core work is great, but if the left side needs to be released because it is too tight and the right side needs to be strengthened, normal Pilates work will not fix the issue.
Over time, these structural imbalances become incorporated into the myofascial and skeletal structures.
The myofascial system is like a thin, but strong, wrapper around your muscles and internal tissues. Bodywork, like massage, works to relax the fascia, but normal massage does not account for the imbalances.
Just like yoga and Pilates work both sides of the body the same, a relaxing massage does not get to the heart of an imbalance. It has benefit because it feels good and relaxing, but it won’t solve the core issue causing pain.
The skeletal structure can also take on imbalances. For example, Someone with a tight hip may begin to flare one foot out to the side with each step. After years of stepping with the foot out to one side, the skeletal structure will adapt to that pattern and it will feel “natural.”
Overtime, this structural change can result in pain in a number of places in the body.
To resolve pain coming from a skeletal imbalance, each side has to be treated as it is. Symmetrical exercise, stretching, or bodywork simply won’t be enough.
The body adapts in incredible ways to keep you moving as well as possible. All of these adaptations are out of service to you being able to continue to function. It is when the adaptation becomes permanent that pain begins to arise.
The good news is that there are methods for addressing the unique needs of your body.
At The Movement Studio, I will analyze your body and how you move to address your specific needs. TRE and PRRT will allow your body to release stored tension and stress. PRI and Rolfing structural integration will address the asymmetries bringing your body back to balance.
You can get back to the movements that you love. You can unwind pain that has come up from years of too much stress or imbalance.
Call The Movement Studio today to schedule an appointment and start resolving your pain. If you live out of the the Southern Oregon or Northern California area, find practitioners in your area trained to use some or all of the methods mentioned above.