Here are my 6 tips to living a life free of pain….
Tip 1: Move and move well
We were built and designed to move, yet in today’s society, it is very easy for us to spend too much time sitting. Most of us probably sit for work, or spend long hours in a car, and when we get home we sit some more. The largest and most powerful muscle in our bodies is the gluteus maximus (the big muscle of the bum). It is the biggest muscle in the body, not to provide a cushion for us to sit on, but rather to enable us to generate incredible amounts of force. Unfortunately sitting on this muscle all day every day actually just turns it off. When this happens, we get imbalanced, certain muscles get tight, other muscles get long and weak. It then becomes harder to move well. We are designed to bend, squat, lift a certain way. Moving well and moving correctly helps keep us balanced, strong and pain free!
Tip 2: Strengthen
Nearly every single person I see in my clinic comes to me because something is causing them pain. Without exception, every single client I see has some kind of muscle weakness – muscles that need strengthening to balance them out. When you are too strong in one muscle group and too weak in the opposing muscle group, this leads to increased stress on joints and their supporting tissues. I am yet to treat anyone for being too strong and balanced. An example of a common weakness I see is weakness in the muscles that control the shoulder blade. When these muscles are weak there is less force controlling the shoulder blade, keeping it where it needs to be. Because the shoulder blade has a hook on it that extends above the arm bone, this weakness often leads to shoulder impingement, bursitis and rotator cuff tears.
Tip 3: Mobilize
When thinking about mobilizing we are thinking about full range of motion in our joints. If we lose full range of motion in any joint, other joints have to start compensating. Remember what we said about moving well and correctly? It is hard to move well and correctly when you do not have full range of motion in your joints. For example, to perform a squat properly you need full range of motion in your hips, knees and ankles. If you don’t have full range of motion you will have to compromise some how – this usually means putting your lower back or knees into a poor and compromised position. Some ways of mobilizing include: stretching, targeted foam rolling and weighted movements through full range. A licensed therapist is also able to effectively mobilize joints.
Tip 4: Develop Control
Tip 4 is really a combination of the first 3. Having strength and full range of motion are good for nothing if we do not have the control to move correctly through full range whilst performing day to day movements. Once we have strength and full range we need to develop the strength and control throughout the whole range. For example, if you never squat below 90 degrees in the gym, chances are you do not have the control to control your spine, pelvis and hips past 90 degrees. We all squat, bend and lift things all day long in our normal daily activities. Who do you think is most likely to eventually hurt themselves – the person who can squat through full range whilst controlling spine, pelvis and hips, or the person who can only control their spine, pelvis and hips to a certain degree of available range? Control through full range is crucial!
Tip 5: Develop Balance
Balance was a central theme of the first 4 tips. Another thing I see time and time again in the clinic is people who are completely unbalanced. Let’s return to the example of sitting – if you spend hours and hours sitting day in and day out the muscles at the front of the hip adapt and get used to that position, they become short, whilst at the back of the hip these muscles also adapt to this position and they lengthen out (and often become quite weak). This muscle imbalance can play havoc on how your hip joints move in their sockets, or where your pelvis’ resting position is, or how much control you have of your spine, pelvis and hips through their range. Ultimately, if you are imbalanced there is a good chance you are already experiencing pain, and if you are not then it is unfortunately really only a matter of time.
Tip 6: Achieve & Maintain a Healthy Weight
I recognise that this is easier said than done, but any excess weight you are carrying round is just added stress on your joints and can definitely be contributing to your pain. I have worked with a number of people who have lost a significant amount of weight and every single time they have reported decreased pain as a result of decreased weight. There are obviously lots of factors involved in weight loss, but one of the most important things is creating a calorie deficit. This means expending more energy than you consume, so that your body has to access its fat stores to meet the deficit. Part of that is controlling what you eat, but the other part is consistent progressive cardiovascular exercise that gets you out of breath.
Not sure how to move correctly? Not sure which of your muscles need strengthening? Not sure which joints need to be mobilized? Not sure how to develop control through range? Need a muscle balance assessment? Come and see us! We are here to help people make the changes necessary to live active pain free lives!