New Moves for Pain Relief
by Eric Winder, DC
“Novel movement” describes a new therapy concept that helps people break out of chronic pain. A patient I will refer to as Sally is a clear demonstration of this idea. Sally can now climb stairs again and relishes her evening walks without the pain that plagued her for over a year. A major part of her improvement came from applying the concepts of novel movement.
Research on pain has shown that using new techniques to move your whole body or individual joints can help convince a person’s nervous system to release the “habit” of pain and allow you to move freely again. To understand the benefit of moving the body in new ways, first consider the mysterious nature of pain. In many cases, the pain that you experience has no clear explanation, and it continues long after the injuries heal. Findings on x-rays or MRIs that seem like possible causes of pain often have no actual relationship to the pain itself.
Studies indicate, for example, the severity of findings on a spinal MRI—problems such as disc bulges, arthritis and bone spurs—actually have low correlation with how much pain you suffer. In fact, some people with severe degeneration can experience minimal or no pain, while others with no degeneration can feel severe pain.
Pain is Weird
Persistent pain, then, is often a mystery. To understand where novel movement fits into the picture, it is important to understand what can cause pain to endure years after an injury. Pain is a perception that your nervous system has about what is happening in the body that could be harmful. Pain is not just about what is happening at the moment, it also includes your nervous system’s interpretation of what has happened in the past or the anticipation of possible future injury.
This does not always reflect the actual truth, as many people with healed injuries can attest to, when they are still experiencing pain years later. A simpler method to explain this is that pain is an opinion that your nervous system has about the body. Please note that your nervous system having an “opinion” about pain is not the same as the assumption, “It’s all in your head.” Scientifically, if you feel pain, it is real, and it has damaging effects, no matter the source.
A New Perspective
Novel movement offers a means to help change this opinion your nervous system holds about possible harm. Moving in new ways the nervous system has not yet formed an opinion about can bypass the tendency to react to motion with pain. This helps your brain to form a new opinion that allows for increased movement with less pain.
As an example of this, we can explore how Sally benefited from new ways of moving. During her treatment sessions at our office, she learned new core exercises for her trunk muscles that she could perform at home daily. While the movements were not strenuous, they were unusual and required coordination that made them slightly difficult at first. Despite the challenge, she found that she could feel a decrease in pain after performing the exercises.
Taking it Further
Sally took this idea of new movement even further. She attended yoga classes and started learning how to hula hoop. While we provided improvements in connective tissue restrictions that were affecting her muscles and joints, Sally provided additional stimulus to her nervous system to help convince it to change its opinion. As a result, she now feels significant improvement and can enjoy activities that she hasn’t done for years.
Novel movement can take many forms. It might mean doing a familiar movement at a slow speed, stretching muscles in a different way or practicing a new exercise. Self-guided novel movement can be helpful for anyone working out minor aches and stiffness. However, for anyone with a significant pain problem, a qualified healthcare practitioner should be consulted in order to guide the process.
This therapy method is often combined with other forms of treatment such as the manual therapy we do at our clinic. While there is no single answer for the treatment and alleviation of persistent pain, for many people, this process of moving in new ways can be an important tool for improving their quality of life.
You are invited to attend an evening program on July 31, where you can learn more about new solutions for chronic pain including novel movement. Dr. Eric Winder will discuss case examples and hold a Q&A session following the presentation. Attendees are invited to arrive at 6:50 p.m. for refreshments, and the program itself will take place from 7–8 p.m. This free event is located at 3131 S Tamiami Trail, #102, Sarasota. To RSVP, call 941-957-8390. Dr. Eric Winder has 22 years in practice, and he focuses on relieving pain and restoring alignment and motion through fascia release therapies without forceful manipulation. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.
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