Moving even if you hurt

To understand something in a new way we need to learn how to move in a new way. Jaimen McMillan

rock texture on Salt Spring Island

Movement is essential to life, and so to thriving and healing. From the slightest rise and fall of the chest in each and every breath to the large airborne leaps of a dancer or athlete we are moving animals. Movement keeps us engaged with the world because it gets us places, gives us ways to interact and keeps our brains healthy and firing well.

Movement study is what began my curiosity about the workings of the brain. As a dancer I experienced myself differently after moving, I felt what I now call embodied, a sense of being full present and able to engage with the world.

You may have already read one of my favorite quotes. “Movement is the unifying bond between the mind and body and sensation is the substance of that bond.” Deane Juhan Pain interferes with the bond between the body and the mind and you perceive your mind and body to be at odds. Yet when we have chronic pain moving maybe the last thing we want to do. Begin simply with sensation. Movement is fairly meaning less without sensation. Sensation helps us correct and refine our movement, and it can also bring our conscious attention who we feel we are. Sensation can also add meaning to our movement.

Movement that is slow and mindful will not injure you.  That is worth saying again. Movement that is slow and mindful will not injure you.  When moving hurts, move slower and smaller and while using images of ease and flow.  Slow mindful movement will help your brainbody know that you can move without pain. Slow movement with attention to sensation will build clearer body maps in your brain that will create positive feedback loops. You will be safely learning that movement is good and not dangerous.

Sometimes those of us with chronic pain will feel fine during movement but the next day we hurt. That’s because it is possible to trigger a pain pattern without noticing discomfort at the time of the movement. When this happens I remind people to be really clear with themselves that this is a pain pattern and was not caused by the movement itself but the other factors associated with this pain pattern. I say this believing that you didn’t do something too long, too big, or too hard. Remember there are all the other factors that contribute to pain patterns (what I haven’t done a blog on this? okay I will). You have to work slowly to change your threshold for threat. And when you fear movement it is so important to start very slowly or just begin with visualizing the movement. This also takes practice but can stimulate the neuromotor pathways to fire without getting the pain pattern going. If you are convinced you can’t do any movement without pain, visualizing is a really good place to begin.

If you would like support learning to move without exacerbating chronic pain come talk to me and we can explore how to feel good about moving.

About karenkirsch

I am a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist and Laban Movement Analyst. I have a Masters degree in Somatic Psychology with training in Interpersonal Neurobiology, Body Mind Centering, Dance Therapy and other mind/body disciplines. My passion is to help people integrate sensate understanding into the practice of daily living and encourage gentle exploration grounded in sound anatomical and neurological principles.
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