Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why does pain get better when we start moving?

Ever wonder why pain gets better when you start moving?  This is a common statement I often hear from patients in our office.  Usually the patient will tell me that their pain hurts worse at night and in the morning when they get out of bed, but they feel better as they move throughout the day.  The reason for this was explained well on page 17 of Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”.  

 Dr. Starrett says:

 “The human animal is set up for survival.  Your central nervous system (CNS) controls the sensory and mechanical information for the entire body.  It’s not an accident that the pain and movement pathways in the brainstem are one and the same.  If a child bangs her finger, the first thing she does is to start moving it around.  Why?  She can no longer hear the pain signal along with the movement signal.  This is a very elegant system to keep people moving and surviving because it literally relegates those pesky pain signals to background noise, which you can’t hear until you stop moving.  Put another way, movement (sensory input) overrides the pain signal so that you can continue moving, exercising and training.  No wonder your shoulder starts to throb when you lie down and go to sleep.  Your brain is no longer receiving any movement signal input.  All your brain gets now is full-blown pain.”

Basically, the take home message from this is:

          1.)    Exercise is a great natural pain reliever.  However, make sure to choose exercises that do not aggravate your condition.

          2.)   Pain is a lagging indicator.  This means that pain happens after the fact that something is wrong.  Poor movement is the true predictor of future pain.  Identifying and restoring proper movement can help reduce pain and improve your performance. 
          3.)    Address the issue.  Use pain as a signal that something has gone wrong and it needs to be addressed either with self-therapy such as stretching, foam rolling, lacrosse ball mashing, stabilizing exercises, etc.  or have it check out by a qualified professional that studies movement dysfunction.

         4.)    Read the book Becoming a Supple Leopard.  Dr. Starrett is a genius at teaching people how to identify movement dysfunction and give corrective strategies on how to fix it.

         Stay Healthy My Friends,

         Dr. Todd Rodman, DC, CCSP, CSCS