Movement: the Key to Overcoming Pain

Orthopedic Injuries, Pain

We all know exercise is good for us, but what about when we are in pain? Despite the old adage, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, movement actually can be the answer to your pain.

Our body craves movement. We are literally born to move; babies are practicing movement almost from the start. Rolling and crawling are our most basic movement patterns that lay the foundation for all of our future movement. As our movement becomes more complex, our joints and muscles depend on us to move in a variety of ways to stay healthy.

Unfortunately we are becoming not only a more sedentary culture but also a unidirectional culture. With the prevalence of smart phones and computers, we are almost always flexed or bent forward doing something in front of us. We flex our bodies thousands of times a day and rarely fully extend. Flexion is an unloading pattern, meaning it takes the weight off the joints. Our joints need to be loaded as much as they are unloaded. When these things are out balance long enough the receptors in the joints sense that they may be under threat and send pain even though there is actually no damage to the joint or muscle.

Since there is no actual damage in most cases of pain, there is no need to rest. We need to move. As Gray Cook, co-founder of the Functional Movement Screen (a test used to assess how well we are moving), says: we should move well and move often.

When we have pain, movement may be scary or painful. This may make you think you should avoid it. But avoiding any movement will cause more pain. If you are having pain with any movement that you can’t overcome, seeking physical therapy may be the answer. Physical therapists can use manual techniques that help prepare the body for the movement and make it less threatening. They will teach you exercise to allow the movement without pain and, ultimately, how to manage the pain on your own without pain medications. So the next time you have pain, get moving. If you just can’t move without pain, call a physical therapist. Don’t live with the pain.