Do You Know How to Name Your Pain?  Here’s Why You Should:

Do You Know How to Name Your Pain? Here’s Why You Should:

The_Cluster_HeadacheWhen I ask patients about pain, I’m always intrigued by the amazing variability in terminology or often the complete lack thereof.  Maybe it’s because of growing up in a multilingual environment that I have a personal fascination with words and language in general.  What’s particularly interesting to me is how inadequate words can be for all of us when trying to fully convey pain and sensation.

Not only is there an endless variety of quality and severity, people who make a habit of “toughing it out” in the face of pain, actually lose their language for pain.  Depending on modeled pain behavior in your childhood home, it’s also possible that this language was never even allowed to develop .  Based on what I see, I believe firmly that it’s only through the re-learning (or learning anew) of how to speak about our physical pain that allows healing to begin.

First of all, on a simply practical level, if you cannot describe your pain with any convincing accuracy, someone like myself who is interested in learning about your pain in order to help you troubleshoot it and get rid of it, is working with hands tied.  It’s not until I spend time with someone who has no language for their pain that I am reminded of how important it is to the successful outcome of any bodywork treatment.

Secondly for yourself, how can you forge ahead successfully towards a cause – in this case eliminating your pain, if you don’t even have a name for it?  For many people pain conjures up fear.  The first rule of thumb about conquering fear is to name it and face it.  If you say to yourself you’re unhappy, don’t you need to know what it is that you’re unhappy about before you have any hope of being happy again? Same thing with pain.  Get specific. Dig deeper.

I notice that the people who are the most conflicted about using the word “pain” tend to be the chronic pain sufferers – the people with high pain tolerance.  (A topic for a separate blog post: people with a high tolerance for pain often are the ones who end up in chronic pain because of their inability to register the early warning signs – and yet they seem to be the ones who worry the most about being pain-“wimps”). These are the people who hesitate and insist instead on using a different, less loaded word because “pain” sounds too serious compared to their perceived discomfort.

It’s okay if you don’t want to refer to your discomfort as “pain”, but you should know that by repeatedly dismissing the idea of pain you lose the ability to describe any aspect of it.  For example, “pins and needles” is an important sensation that leads to very different approach in treatment than “stabbing” sensation.  An “ache” can be very different than “stiffness” and both are significant to me but will change how I treat it.  Sometimes the sequence and timing of sensation is meaningful and sometimes it’s the combination of sensations that points to the cause.  Everything and anything that you notice is significant – even if you don’t want to give it any weight.

I believe this widespread issue of inadequate command of and connection with our language for pain, is what causes some physicians to quickly dismiss complaints as fabricated or baseless.  If you are someone who is unable to describe your pain as anything other than “it hurts”, your concern will most likely be dismissed and you’ll be urged to  medicate it away because no one has the words to understand it.

If you’re like any reasonable person, after years – or even just weeks – of pain, certainly you would like nothing more than to distance yourself from it. Why would you choose to dive deeper into your awareness of it?  Well this is exactly what I’m asking a lot of my patients to do and yes it can be a frustrating process.  But it is an important step to solving the puzzle and taking control of what is within your reach.

Start with basics like: “sharp”, “dull”, “burning”, “throbbing”, “grabbing”, or “stabbing”.  If you’re still having trouble coming up with words that seem right, try thinking of how you can compare your pain or discomfort to other sensations you’ve had in your life like: a tooth ache, a stomach pain, stubbing your toe, catching your finger in a door or a drawer and other things like that.  Those are all good starts and you will probably find that once you start the conversation the words will come to you more and more easily.

I would venture to guess that at least half of the failed outcomes in physical medicine with any given practitioner has to do with how accurately the practitioner was able to interpret the patient’s pain language.  I certainly have failed my share of patients in the past when there’s pain that I don’t know about or fully appreciate, which is why I’ve learned to ask so many questions about the “pain”.  I will probably never seem alarmed by a sensation you’re describing but that is because most pain and discomfort makes sense to me.  What doesn’t make sense and worries me more is when something I know should be hurting, is instead shrugged off or does not even seem to register.

Start talking about your pain. Be creative and daring; find your pain-language. It’s personal, unique and valid.  There’s a good reason for your pain and it’s not out of your reach to figure it out and with some help to put an end to it.

Above all, be patient with yourself.   Pain is your ally not your enemy.  It’s an important message to you about something that needs your help and attention.


Practitioners: How does pain language affect your practice?

Patients: Have you encountered this language barrier with your practitioners?

Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts below…

 


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons: By JD Fletcher (http://arowmaker.tripod.com/AROWMAKER/id6.html) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Stretching Out the Pain: Feels Good But is it Good FOR You? – Stop Everyday Pain

yoga-dancer-1024x855Recently I’ve had a few questions from patients who are reading the book.  One that keeps coming up is about whether or not stretching is good or bad for us.  Stretching is a very confusing topic and has been one of scientific controversy for years which makes the answer not so straightforward.

In this first volume of my book series Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain™, Put Out the Fire I spend some time explaining that stretching is actually a mechanical stressor and therefore risky for people dealing with everyday pain.  This means that the elongation we cause by stretching can result in stress to the underlying structure.  Usually  when all things – mechanical, biochemical and emotional – are in balance, a reasonable stretch doesn’t cause any trouble.  However, when we are out of balance in any one of these areas and if we are already in pain, then stretching the compromised area is a terrible idea.

We often get away with stretching without consequences during times when we are not in crisis. Unfortunately with this sort of benign experience in mind and due to the fact that stretch-sensation neurologically eclipses the pain of inflammation, the concept that stretching is not good for your pain, is a very puzzling one to accept.

If you stretch a muscle in distress, you are basically signalling to your body that the tightening over-reaction – the one you are trying to find relief from – is indeed justified.  In this case, your stretch will perpetuate the underlying reason for muscle pain and tightness instead of resolving the problem.

The reason muscles grab and get tight is 100% protective in nature.  It is always the most reasonable response to unreasonable conditions.  You may not agree that the conditions are “unreasonable” but your brain and body’s assessment is all that matters during times like this.  If you don’t stop and find out what they’re protecting you from, there may be much worse discomfort lurking around the next corner.

Another interesting point is that the elongation stress associated with stretching can happen without, what looks to us like, a traditional intentional stretch.  Lengthening stress to muscle fibers is something that can be produced with sustained pressure on a muscle or a tendon.  When a muscle bundle is made to deform in this way it’s perceived by the brain as elongation. If that area is already inflamed, it will be a problem.  So, all of you foam rolling or ball rolling advocates beware!

A large part of my mission in educating patients is to highlight the subtleties in movement and posture that matter when we are in pain, but which often don’t seem very obvious to us.  By learning about these not so obvious contributions to pain, we can stop berating ourselves for “falling apart” and acknowledge the way forward. Recognizing the validity in our pain is a vital step towards feeling better and staying out of pain in the future.

An important part of Volume Two – Fix the Fire Damage will include information about exactly how and when to stretch safely and how to solve the problem of muscle tightness for the long term.

Click on this link for more at the original article Source: Stretching Out the Pain: Feels Good But is it Good FOR You? – Stop Everyday Pain

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Taking My Own “Medicine”

Taking My Own “Medicine”

Dobbins'_medicated_toilet_soap,_advertising,_1869When you’re a chiropractor, what does it mean to “take your own medicine” ?

“Walking my own talk” consists of more than just making sure I receive chiropractic care myself.  It’s about seeking balance in all areas of health.  With balance in sight, the need for professional treatment decreases.

My motivation is maybe a bit more intensely fueled than for most people because my body is my essential work tool.  If mechanical, biochemical or emotional balance is off, it directly affects the ability to fulfill my commitment to patients which in turn could potentially risk my livelihood.  This is an intense interdependence that I would never trade for anything but it can be more than stressful to be even just a little bit laid-up.

In last week’s post I alluded to a recently renewed return to health by restoring balance to my own life, after a year of pushing to get my book out, followed by the release and adventures in promotion.

Block Quote 4I cannot emphasize enough how much this pursuit of balance can differ from person to person.  I am taking a moment to briefly outline what this looked like for me at this particular juncture, to give you a very general idea of the factors to consider when thinking about your own balance in wellness.  In particular I want to illustrate some of the principles outlined in my book (Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain, Volume One – Put Out the Fire). Don’t wait until you’re in pain to find your true healthy balance. The everyday variety of pain is always a sign that something has fallen by the wayside in one of the three main categories (mechanical, biochemical or emotional) but things can be “off” long before pain strikes.

In my case, this time I needed first to focus on returning to a more regimented sleep/wake schedule.  I’ve learned that my body and mind operate optimally with 6,1/2 – 7 hours of sleep per night and this means I need to exercise a little discipline about getting to bed on time because I am not willing to get up late.  The morning hours are treasured time and important to my emotional well-being.  I’m very lucky to have good sleep hygiene and my body cooperates well when put to bed.  For times when that’s not the case (as everything ebbs and flows), I reach for homeopathic remedies, herbal teas or magnesium to calm the nervous system before bed.  A controversial trick that isn’t advisable for everyone but that works well for me, is to have a small bite to eat before bedtime as well.

Test tubes science backgroundRe-balancing my biochemistry is something that I dedicated the better part of two consecutive months to. Resetting my organ systems and aiding the natural detoxification, involved some herbal and food therapy.  I returned to eating simply by avoiding my known sensitivities: dairy, all animal protein, simple starches (sugar), nightshades and a few other specifics that I’ve come to recognize over the years as taxing to my system.  I’ve since then slowly returned to more variety based on what my appetite dictates.

Block Quote 2Some signs that will tell you about your sensitivities can be as subtle as an increase in heart rate within 1/2 hour of eating. Sometimes it’s just a little tickle in the back of the throat that passes quickly but is still a significant sign of intolerance.  Other times it can be a generalized increase in mucous production and that might be harder to spot.  The need to clear your throat or blow your nose in the morning might be signs of excess mucous production in response to a food trigger from the day before.  The point is that foods (sometimes very delicious food), not overtly considered as “allergenic” like peanuts, can still be considered by your body as a burden for your biochemistry.  So, it’s always important to pay attention to subtle reactions.

When I commit to helping my body unload excess waste, I also utilize dry sauna sweats, infrared if possible and pay extra attention to optimizing kidney and bowel function.  This makes a big difference in the associated discomfort of “detox”-related headaches and body aches that can happen when large amounts of waste are mobilized throughout the body for elimination.

My herbal and nutrient based regimen was also targeted, in part to facilitate elimination via the kidneys, liver and colon.  There are many different philosophies on which herbs are most appropriate and this is something that is best done with the advice of a natural health care doctor.  Focusing on aiding natural elimination is the best way to help decrease your body’s chemical burden from exposure to complex molecules in our air, food and water.

Balancing RocksFor me, restoring mechanical balance can’t happen without first adequate rest and attention to nutrition.  After re-setting sleep and nutrition I found my energy returning and started to increase activity based on that, but not until then.  If fuel or rest and recovery are lacking, then the exercise output ends up adding stress to the system instead of strengthening it.  This is why sleep and nutrient intake is first priority. It sets the stage for successful return to exercise.  Without this in place, workouts are pointless and counterproductive, potentially resulting in inflammation-causing stress.

Block Quote 3What my body and mind are willing and able to do changes with the seasons, years and stages in life.  This Spring, yoga was the doorway back to physical empowerment.  It helped me begin to feel able to return to swimming and weightlifting.  Now, my routine includes one yoga class per week and two other days of gym workouts which consist of a warm-up swim followed by an upper body or lower body weight resistance workout.  That’s three days a week of 1-2 hours of exercise. They are strategically spaced from my days with patients so that I am not too sore to be effective in the office, but also to avoid muscle fatigue related injuries.

There’s nothing rigorous about this current exercise schedule which is what makes it completely sustainable.  When starting a new routine, being consistent is more important than making a huge impact.  Come wintertime, it’s possible that my needs will change and I will change my exercise accordingly.  Perhaps in a future post I will take some time to address the how of tuning in to your own changing needs from season to season or depending on life and work situations.  It’s mostly a lifelong process of trial and error.

It can be tricky to walk the fine line between the intended exertion of exercise and inescapable demands of work life. But as you slowly increase physical activity, what always holds true is that you increase your body’s capacity for emotional, chemical and physical stress to keep from rebounding into exhausted inactivity.  It must be done in a loving way. Self-care routines are best implemented with gentle caring instead of harsh reprimands.  If you’re someone who thrives on hard line tactics for motivation – find a trainer or someone outside of yourself to play that role.

Even though it’s not an easy daily practice for many, being loving and yes even permissive with yourself makes room for healthy choices.  Remember real health can and does exist in imperfect bodies everywhere.  It’s about balance, not perfection.

Block Quote 1Lastly, you should know that it takes at least two full months – often three months – of consistent activity in order to surpass the “transition reaction” of new exercise.  When introducing a change in routine or physical demands, the brain and body will express themselves by exhibiting physical sensations that aren’t always 100% comfortable.

Sometimes the transition to a better balance in life includes re-visiting old pain that might feel like re-injury as we work to strengthen around these old vulnerabilities.  This is why it’s important to line up some outside help during these transitions either via massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic.  It’s the time when I see the greatest need for support in my patients.

Food for thought while you consider your own healthy balancing act: When we act in reaction or opposition to an idea or a feeling, we set the stage for inevitable failure. When we act out of caring and acceptance for the imperfection that is, we make good and sustainable choices.


Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Fotolia

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A Return to Writing (Health)

A Return to Writing (Health)

IMG_3980What an encouraging 3-4 month-long “trip” this has been since the release of my first book Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain Volume One – Put Out the Fire.  You may have heard that it’s now available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, at the book website StopEverydayPain.com and for bookstores and libraries through the major distributor Ingram.

That first volume lays the important groundwork behind the reasons and causes for our everyday aches and pains. Now it’s getting to be time that I start piecing together the much anticipated Volume Two – Fix the Fire Damage.  This next book will continue striving to mirror the ideal experience of a typical patient under my care.  The next step after gaining an understanding of the pain is to repair and rehabilitate.  Everyone’s path looks a little different based on their individual situations but there are some common principles that apply to all of us, based on what is revealed in Volume One.

I’m excited to share those insights with more people now that I see and hear how helpful this first book has been.  There are more photos to organize and action steps to share with readers.  Another exciting feature to this next volume will be interview material that I am preparing to gather from outstanding complementary healthcare professionals.

To truly reflect the multi-pronged approach to everyday pain that I advocate for in my practice, there is just no way that I could consider moving forward with this project without reflecting the voices of a larger healthcare community.  Stay tuned for how that unfolds through some fun video sneak-peeks of my progress with willing participants!

There is also a wealth of experience and perspective that I gained while doing a short publicity tour of podcasts and radio shows over the past several months.  I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts about those in this blog feed throughout the next year or so.  The many gracious hosts who took an interest in myself and my project inspired me to elaborate further on some book matter and I’ll be addressing some of that here as well as in my next two volumes.

I am discovering how much I love wearing these new hats: Indie Publisher and Indie Author.  Creatively speaking, it’s extremely rewarding to me and I never shy away from the challenge of hard work – which it has definitely been. IMG_4113A steep learning curve but, much like what classroom teaching offered me years ago,  this process provides invaluable perspective to my one-on-one time with patients and vice versa.

The whirlwind of the past year took its toll on my self-care as can be expected.  But now I’ve had my turn at returning to my own health by applying some of the principles in my book – restoring my physical, chemical and emotional balance – I live fervently by the conviction to “begin again” without judgement or guilt any time I stray from healthy routine.  Ups and downs are such a part of life.  I embrace it all and I hope you will too.

I’m ready now, to buckle down with the creation process again and return to writing.  Thankfully this stage won’t take 5 years like the first book did.  My publishing team is firmly in place and the book production path has been forged.  It’ll be easier to find again during the next round.

Onward.

Tissue Acidity is Real. Debunking the “Debunkers”.

Tissue Acidity is Real. Debunking the “Debunkers”.

strumenti laboratorio chimicoThe controversial issue concerning the role of pH in health is one with heated opinions on both sides of the fence. But what are those sides of the fence? Well, there is a strong cohort opposed to the concepts that acidity or alkalinity (measured on a scale of pH) is in some form or another related to health and, in particular, that the food we eat has any bearing on our body’s pH value. The other side is preoccupied with promoting products like pH-regulated water that will supposedly “cure” you of all diseases. Neither position on the matter is doing justice to the facts.

I write about the influence of pH in my book Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain. There is no scarcity of research to support the fact that low tissue pH (acidity) is associated with inflammation, which can lead to pain.1-6 This is an extremely relevant point when considering the paradigm shift necessary to recognize early indicators of dysfunction and imbalance — these will help us learn to avoid the perplexing everyday variety of pain that often seems to appear out of nowhere.

Block Quote #1The science of pH in human physiology is complex. There is no easy cause-and-effect scenario to follow, and no straightforward way exists to measure pH in the body in real time. For example, urine pH values do not accurately represent the pH values in your joints and tissues, and salivary pH is not directly representative of your intestinal pH status because normally food is processed by your gastrointestinal tract and, in doing so, the composition of what you ingested has changed. The reality is that the acid/alkaline status of your body is a moving target and is not uniform across all systems.  These crude measurements (urine and saliva) act as red herrings and provide—at best—educated guesses about what the body is actually going through at any particular moment.

One very important truth that every pH “debunker” gets right is that blood pH does not fluctuate. This tight control over blood pH levels is essential to keeping us within the very narrow parameters needed by our cardiovascular system to keep us alive. Keeping our blood pH from fluctuating is so important that, when we are exposed to acidifying influences that could disrupt our blood chemistry balance, an elaborate biochemical dance occurs in all other body systems in an effort to “take the hit” for us. Our body copes in other ways to handle the stress and temporarily becomes compromised in some way to protect the blood pH from potentially life-threatening fluctuations.

What sorts of things cause this kind of pH-shifting biochemical stress? Anything that our cells are exposed to in the course of daily life can cause a shift—air, food, and water act as the three main vectors. Our air is filled with byproducts of industrial exhausts and at different times of the year with complex plant proteins that become airborne and act as allergens. Food comes in many formats in our society of “now” and modern conveniences. Packaging, processing, and preservatives introduce chemical compounds that our bodies were not Block Quote #2designed to tolerate on a regular basis, and what we think of as water is no longer just H2O (two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen). Water is generally considered safe, but the measures needed to create safe drinking water in developed countries may also introduce miniscule amounts of foreign molecules into the water supply.

The key realization here is to understand that the issue isn’t necessarily exclusively about the pH value of these substances themselves, rather that, in large part, it’s the body’s protective responses in the face of biochemical stressors that change our tissue chemistry

Let’s look at a common response to biologic “invaders”: Histamine. Histamine is an irritant produced in response to a wide array of allergens, and evidence suggests that histamine itself presents an acidifying effect.7-9 These inevitable acidic influences have to hit us somewhere and, if not the blood, then where?

An important distinction often missing from these discussions about pH is that blood pH is not the same as tissue pH. Tissues are bathed in interstitial fluid made up of lymphatic and cellular materials (amino acids, hormones, sugars, fatty acids, coenzymes, neurotransmitters, salts, and cellular waste)—none of which equates to blood. In processing biochemical stress from any source—whether dietary, environmental, or emotional—it turns out that the tissues of the body, not the blood, are the most affected.

Armed with these facts about pH in the body and its association with inflammation, it’s compelling to consider the following possibility: It seems that every food theory that aims at decreasing inflammation and enhancing gut and brain health (based on the acidity/alkalinity of your food or not) are successful to at least some degree. Could the true reason for this be because of the net effect on tissue pH? Well, it’s not quite that simple. There’s a catch: People report a wide variety of results. So, does that mean all this food hype is bunk?

It’s certainly not “bunk,” per se, but it’s worth remembering that, if no measurable correlation exists between the acidifying influence of the food itself and a particular person’s body pH, then any results seen (whether good or bad) are likely a factor of that person individual’s biologic response based on his or her unique genetic profile. So, what does that mean? It means that results are highly variable.

Which foods or airborne particles do your cells consider to be allergens (ie, foreign)? Firstly, this is something that changes as we age; secondly, it’s dictated by your genetic profile; and, thirdly, to complicate matters, outside influences (environmental, including stress) can change the responses of your genes to allergens.

These are the facts:

  1. In general, inflammation is at the root of dysfunction and disease.10
  2. Tissue acidity provides an environment conducive to inflammation.11

If we can avoid providing the perfect playground for pain and disease, then why shouldn’t we try? Exploring the foods and substances that expose your cells to the least amount of acidifying stress is a very personal journey. The array of widely touted food theories may be appropriate for some people and represent a good place to start, but you may find you’ll require some guidance from a natural medicine practitioner at some point to help you pinpoint what your specific situation calls for and the individual needs of your body.

For professionals in the dietetics field or those in the food industry to claim that what we eat doesn’t affect our health in this way seems a bit ironic and counter to the mission. I hope the conversation continues for the sake of shedding light on ways to minimize biochemical stress—whether that be through dietary changes, lifestyle modification, or in other ways—with the ultimate goal being to increase quality of life for all.

 

References

  1. Bray GE, Ying Z, Baillie LD, Zhai R, Mulligan SJ, Verge VM. Extracellular pH and neuronal depolarization serve as dynamic switches to rapidly mobilize trkA to the membrane of adult sensory neurons. J Neurosci. 2013;33(19):8202-8215.
  2. Ugawa S, Ueda T, Ishida Y, Nishigaki M, Shibata Y, Shimada S. Amiloride-blockable acid-sensing ion channels are leading acid sensors expressed in human nociceptors. J Clin Invest. 2002;110(8):1185-1190.
  3. Wu WL, Cheng CF, Sun WH, Wong CW, Chen CC. Targeting ASIC3 for pain, anxiety, and insulin resistance. Pharmacol Ther. 2012;134(2):127-138.
  4. Birklein F, Weber M, Ernst M, Riedl B, Neundorfer B, Handwerker HO. Experimental tissue acidosis leads to increased pain in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Pain. 2000;87(2):227-234.
  5. Lin CC, Chen WN, Chen CJ, Lin YW, Zimmer A, Chen CC. An antinociceptive role for substance P in acid induced chronic muscle pain. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(2):E76-E83.
  6. Steen KH, Steen AE, Kreysel HW, Reeh PW. Inflammatory mediators potentiate pain induced by experimental tissue acidosis. Pain. 1996;66(2-3):163-170.
  7. Uvnäs B, ed. Histamine and Histamine Antagonists. New York: Springer-Verlag; 1991.
  8. Hiller A, The effect of histamine on the acid-base balance. J Biol Chem. 1926;833-46.
  9. Rocha e Silva M, Rothschild HA. Histamine. Its chemistry, metabolism and physiological and pharmacological actions. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg GmbH. 1966:233.
  10. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, Miller GE, Frank E, Rabin BS, Turner RB. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(16):5995-5999.
  11. Jankowski JA, ed. Inflammation and Gastrointestinal Cancers. New York: Springer; 2011.
Book Pick of the Week: Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain

Book Pick of the Week: Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain

Such an honor! Feeling humbled.

Gotta Love It

Pain

None of us can escape getting older, but we certainly can minimize or even eliminate many of the aches and pains we experience, simply by learning how to understand and work with our bodies.

Dr. Y-Ling J. Liou, D.C. offers a user-friendly guide to getting rid of the hurt in her just released book, “Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain.”https://www.facebook.com/everydaypainguide/

How you move throughout your day greatly impacts the amount of pain you experience, and Dr. Liou does an excellent job of explaining the relationship between inflammation and pain, with plenty of practical suggestions (illustrated) to take the reader to a new normal of less “ouch” and more “aah”.

Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain – Gotta Love It!

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Do You Have a “Flexion Intolerant” Back?

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAYou may or may not have heard this new buzz term in the world of physical medicine and rehabilitation.  It is certainly gaining traction in my industry thanks to a couple of brilliant minds in the world of functional movement and kinesiology: Stuart McGill Ph.D.,and  Craig Liebenson D.C. for starters.

I see how  very helpful it can be, to the average person in pain, to be able to identify and label their condition.  The term “Flexion Intolerance” has come to serve that very purpose in my own practice.  In particular I’ve found it very helpful to point people to this internet resource developed by a fellow chiropractor: Fix Your Own Back dot com.  Dr. Snell provides an easy to use guide to help people in pain figure out if their back pain situation might be one that can respond very well to some basic changes to just a few everyday things.  We often take for granted these everyday activities until we’re in pain.

Pain is the primary and most effective motivation for most of us to want to investigate and learn more about our bodies. I believe it’s important that everyone realize before they are in pain, that “flexion” is not something our lower backs are very well designed to put up with in the first place, but especially not in the way that our modern lives demand.  We are all actually, by design, flexion-intolerant.  In particular, we are intolerant of the kind of flexion and the amount of flexion our modern day backs are exposed to.

What is Flexion?

It’s the technical term used to describe a forward bending motion (in the spine) which in the extreme looks like rounding.  Imagine the fetal position  – the ultimate example – full body flexion.  It’s no secret that bending to pick up something heavy can be “dicey” for the back and most of us know that this could result in pain if we’re not careful.

The unfortunate thing  is that flexion in the lumbar spine / lower back can be happening without the outward appearance of rounding – for example while sitting many of us are actually putting the lower back into flexion without meaning to – even if we’re not necessarily slouching.  The brain is pre-programmed with what can be considered our “safe” amount of flexion both in degree and frequency.  This pre-programmed set point is different for every single body, but it’s what determines when and under which conditions we suddenly experience our flexion intolerance as full blown pain.

You’ll find much more about this idea of our individual mechanical set point or blueprint for safe movement at Stop Everyday Pain dot com.  This is where my blog to book project is taking shape.  Check it out, become part of the process or just follow along to find out why things hurt that didn’t used to hurt and figure out what you can do about it.


 

[photo credit: wikimedia commons]