Let me start by saying I’m sympathetic towards those dealing with chronic, muscular-skeletal pain. I’ve spent countless hours researching and studying this complex biological condition so that I can better understand your affliction and help you resolve your pain. Whether it’s my family, friends, or BRP members, I’m in your corner and will do my best to get your swagger back and living life to the fullest. However, this requires you to shift your mindset on what is truly causing your pain.
Muscular-skeletal pain is often a response to our sedentary lifestyle habits. In other words, it’s our brain/body pleading with us to change our behaviors. Pain should be a motivator to stop slouching, move more with variation and be mindful how you move throughout your day. Having more awareness of how your body is designed to move and putting that awareness into daily practice will lead to less pain and better performance in daily activities as you age. You will also experience less injury while playing your favorite sport or recreational activity.
Over the years I’ve witnessed many injuries playing on my men’s slow pitch softball team, including my own. Often these injuries, such as pulled hamstrings and knee and shoulder strains, are a consequence of being sedentary most of the day and not warming up properly. I’ve seen similar injuries happen throughout the years as a running coach and fitness instructor. These injuries can often be avoided if we stop trying to be weekend warriors and make mindful movement and mobility a daily practice.
If you’re severely injured, or have pain stemming from a pathology causing unaccounted weight loss or gain, changes in bladder or bowel function, night sweats, dizziness, fever, vomiting, or nausea, don’t procrastinate and go get it checked out. But, if you’re dealing with muscular-skeletal pain from your bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves, it may be time to stop asking your healthcare provider what’s wrong with you. Instead, ask yourself what you could be doing wrong that’s contributing to your pain. If we can establish the basic health minimums to our lifestyle habits, such as getting enough sleep, water, wholesome food, and non-exercise activity in our day (with a minimum of 8,000 steps), and have more postural awareness, we may not have to burden our physician and a stressed healthcare system about our pain.
One of the most common reasons we visit our doctor is for non specific low back pain. The causes of back injuries and subsequent pain can stem from lifting and carrying or putting down objects, falls, and repetitive movement strains. However, many expert physiologists would argue the main cause comes from our sedentary lifestyle that promotes weight gain, a lack of muscle tone, and a lack of postural stability because the muscles get weak. The pain can be debilitating and costly, from taking days off of work, to psychosocial issues that can cause distress and worsen the pain. For instance, if you are anxiety-prone, and have catastrophic thinking, this can make your pain worse and you’ll try anything to get out of the discomfort. First, we’ll try over the counter pain meds and pop them in our mouth like a daily supplement. Next, is a visit to our doctor that usually ends up with a prescription for a higher dose of pain meds and a generic handout of PT exercises. We’ll also try a more holistic approach such as dry needling, cupping, and massage therapy which can desensitize you to your pain, but usually doesn’t resolve it. When all else fails, we’ll roll the dice with surgery. What we often overlook is how our poor lifestyle behaviors might be contributing to our pain such as prolonged sitting with a flexed spine, poor diet, not getting enough sleep and water. Rather than relying on pain meds or other self-medicating habit to get you through your day, please take a closer look at your sedentary behavior and biomechanics.
From an evolutionary perspective our bodies are not well adapted for prolonged sitting on comfy chairs or other forms of inactivity. Like it or not we are bipedal primates who enjoy rest, but need enough stimulus from upright movement such as walking to keep us thriving and out of pain. As simple as it may sound, studies have shown that a brisk walk, with more arm swing and postural awareness, can be effective in preventing, alleviating, and even treating back pain.
Humans are quite durable and tolerant of poor lifestyle habits, until the body has had enough. If we take care of our bodies now, the quality of our life goes way up as we age. Many of the muscular-skeletal issues that show up during our lives may look like outlier events, when they could have been prevented by being more mindful of our bodies and taking responsibility for our health. Please don’t be a burden on your loved ones or a stressed healthcare system, when you can start today to make healthier and lasting lifestyle changes.
If you’re dealing with an injury or muscular-skeletal pain or you just want to move better, feel better and live pain-free, join the Be Resilient Project and sign up for our Functional Fitness and Movement/Mobility classes, or if you want a one-on-one training, our personalized coaching program can help!
Share Your Wellness Thoughts: Is there a lifestyle change that you have made that has helped manage your muscular-skeletal pain?