The "Just Do Some Exercises" Myth
We very often hear from our clients about their discontent regarding an exercise solution for muscle and joint pain. We hear...
- the exercises hurt
- they're hard to follow
- I don't have time
- I don't feel any better, etc
Definitely a conundrum... We have to move ...exercises don't work??
It's all about the kind of exercise and how well they're done. In essence you have two muscle systems, both work when we are moving, running, lifting weights, exerting ourselves. Only one system works when we are in one position for a period of time, sitting is a good example. This is often referred to as the postural muscle system.
The slide into disability. When our bodies are in top working form, both muscle systems work together, and we bounce back from injury, often with little specific effort. However, injuries which develop over time, including the dreaded repetitive strain injuries so prevalent in an office environment don't bounce back because the two systems are no longer working together. The postural system, responsible for position feedback and resisting gravity, is the muscle system which crashes with repetitive strain injury.
Climbing out of disability. It's all about doing the right kind of 'exercise'. Think about it as pre-exercise. You need to restore normal feedback between stretched, weak muscles and your brain. This requires low effort, long hold kind of exercise. The best exercise systems that incorporate these exercise stimuli are yoga and pilates. The trouble is the stronger muscles always gobble up the exercise stimulus, and truly dysfunctional muscles will continue to wither. Other trouble is that the basic instinct of exercise always seems to lead to harder, faster...
Retrain the brain.The first order of business is to restore the mind-muscle connect. This requires a type of exercise called motor control. The best 'stabilization' exercise may incorporate motor control, but not all do. Once your brain remembers the default motion, any and all exercise is good, and the more movement the better!
A good physiotherapist is the health provider best placed to help you with motor control exercise. Before you choose a clinic, ask some questions ...especially does the therapist specialize in motor control or postural issues, and how much time will you actually spend with the therapist. It's just not possible to learn motor control techniques quickly. To master motor control you really need time and a lot of feedback, at least 25 to 30 minutes per session of one-to-one coaching. It is failure to restore 'default' or normal motion that causes failure of exercise as treatment measure.
Yours in health,
Estelle Barry PT