by Kelly Otis, PMA Certified Physical Therapist /Polestar Pilates Certified
I have often discussed the concept of getting or being in shape as we age. As part of that discussion, I encourage people to redefine what “being in shape” looks like. In my view, the priority is to be PAIN-FREE.
When joints, muscles, or nerves send out a pain signal to the brain, it is because we are doing something to hurt that area. It is often a warning signal to change a movement strategy or position. If we ignore that warning, a temporary, small pain signal may become a progressively louder signal. If we continue to ignore or push through the pain signal, we can do deeper damage to the tissue that is in distress. This often will lead to continual pain signals and thereby chronic (relentless) pain.
By the time a client comes to me for relief, they have frequently been in chronic pain for months or even years. To unwind the pain, I work backwards in history, unraveling the series of injuries or poor movement strategies that have led up to it.
The question of “How long do you think it will take to get out of pain?” is common when evaluating and treating my clients. My answer is usually “Tell me, how long ago did you first recognize that you had pain?” Interestingly, the answer is not straightforward. That initial pain signal someone feels is subtle, and we as a society are taught to “push through” pain, or doctors may say it’s a sign of aging. We are encouraged to discontinue the sport or activity that causes it and mask the symptoms with painkillers.
I have made a successful career out of unraveling chronic pain with a precise client history intake and evaluation, manual therapy to get joints, muscles, and nerves moving properly again, and re-education of movement patterns that likely have contributed to the chronic pain. I include a systematic introduction of healthy, basic movement patterns such as regular walking or hiking, progressing to increasingly more complex movement patterns such as Pilates or yoga. Finally, personal goals of returning to sports and activities PAIN-FREE can be realized! This process typically will take 5 to 15 visits to complete, however even one or two visits can make a world of difference to getting relief or starting to see the way out of chronic pain.