I have been a movement professional for over 15 years. In that time, I’ve had the pleasure to help hundreds of wonderful people move better and feel better, reach their fitness and health goals, and create positive change in their lives. I work with an incredibly diverse clientele of athletes and nonathletes, moms and dads, runners, cyclists, Yogis, and much more. I have worked with kids as young as 8 and as old as 94.
Over the years of working, there is something that I’ve noticed. The younger clients (roughly under 35) tend to blame their pain issues on specific traumatic injuries, e.g. sports injury or car accidents. When it comes to my over-35 clients, however, the most common reason given for why they are in pain is:
Each time I hear this statement–and unfortunately I hear it a lot–I cringe. Why does it make me cringe? Because it is a perpetuated myth that pain and movement dysfunction are simply caused by the aging process and we have no control over it. I have news for you: this myth is total BS. What’s worse, buying into it limits a person from proactively exploring the body’s ability for full, healthy, pain-free movement–regardless of age.
It’s not that age isn’t the primary factor in pain; age does play a role. But not in the way you think. Age plays a role because the older we get the more time we’ve had to practice poor, restricted, unhealthy, and eventually painful movement patterns. I call this The Movement Equation: Time x Repetition = Improvement. I will explain this in more detail in a bit.
Why we hurt
The majority of chronic pain and injury in our culture is due to how we move. The body has an immense range of healthy movement potential such as squatting, lunging, crawling, climbing, jumping, and so much more. If you do not move to your fullest potential on a regular basis you slowly lose the ability to move fully into it. I call this the
shrinking movement box.
For example, can you do any of the following: squat with your butt to the floor, reach behind and touch the base of your opposite shoulder blade evenly with both hands, reach overhead while rotating your trunk. If you cannot perform these functional movements without pain or restriction, you’ve lost some of your functional movement potential.
Losing functional movement means you are slowly being wrapped tighter and tigher into an ever shrinking movement box. Eventually, when you must move outside the box — e.g. bending over, lifting something over your head, or reaching and turning backwards, you experience pain and/or injury. The injury results because your body no longer feels safe moving outside of the box. Exacerbating the problem, many people who experience this kind of pain, due to the fear of making thing worse, move even less–thus shrinking the box that much more.
Due to this reaction, once your movement box begins shrinking it will continue to shrink. This brings me back to the movement equation.
The Movement Equation: time x repetition = improvement
In this equation, Time is how many days, months, or years you’ve been moving in either good or poor movement patterns; repetition is literally the number of times you perform a movement pattern during the entire specified time period; and as you know, whatever you practice leads to improvement— in this equation, improvement is not necessarily a positive or negative thing. e.g. healthy practice (moving fully into your potential) improves healthy movement, and unhealthy practice (moving within an ever-shrinking box) improves unhealthy and restrictive movement.
The time portion of the equation is where your age comes into play. The fact is that most of us have been moving poorly for years. Each year as we age, we move less and less. This translates into more and more time spent experiencing less and less healthy movement. Now multiply this effect by 10, 20, 30, or more years: the older you get practicing poor movement, the more hardwired that poor movement has become. And with that hardwiring comes higher incidences of pain. In the movement equation, practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanence. Is that box starting to feel a little uncomfortable?
The good news is that in this case “permanent” is only until you make the decision to change your movement patterns. In other words, you can use the movement equation in your favor– regardless of how old you are. If you introduce quality pain-free movement and practice it daily, over time you will experience greater and greater quality, pain-free movement in your life.
Now…are you ready to change how you move?
Great! The first step to is to change your mindset–this is arguably the most important step.
This is from a previous post It Hurts When I Run:
“The path to quality, pain-free movement begins by changing your mindset around how you move. It begins with a simple understanding:
If I am in pain, then the way I have been moving is hurting me. If I want to feel better, I must change the way that I move. To do this, I must change.”
This change begins by no longer buying into the self-limiting beliefs that your pain is caused by your age. It is not. The pain is caused by your movement choices.
With a new mindset to re-establish your health and vitality, it is time to work on restoring pain-free movement. This part can also be quite challenging. In our culture, we are not taught healthy, restorative movement-based exercise. So knowing where to start is incredibly difficult.
With my clients, I begin by slowly integrating healthy pain-free movement. Each day, slowly explore your full movement potential. If it hurts, then move to the limit of your pain-free range–no further!–then expand into fuller ranges over days, weeks, and months. As Scott Sonnon, one of my favorite movement practitioners, often says, “Move to the tension, not through the tension.” For help restoring movement, I highly recommend you check out his IntuFlow DVD Series. I love this program because it focuses on joint by joint, full body, integrated movement. I’ve been utilizing it for myself and clients as a daily practice. It moves slowly into your healthy pain-free limits, slowly expanding into greater movement over time. I can’t think of anyone who would not benefit from it.
Seek help from a movement professional
Remember, the pain you experience daily has developed over years and years. Pain-free movement will not be restored overnight. It will take time and it is important that you grant yourself the patience to re-learn healthy movement patterns. The help of a movement professional who can assess, treat, and provide a corrective exercise protocol can rapidly speed up the process. I often see significant shifts in a client’s movement quality and pain reduction within a few sessions. I send them home with corrective exercises which provides daily repetition to further reinforces these positive changes into powerful life changing improvement.
If you have questions about a specific movement issue, I invite you to join The Injury Corner on Facebook, and post it there. For help finding a movement professional in your area let me know. I will do my best to connect you to the best health care team available.
The above link to the Scott Sonnon DVD is an Amazon affiliate link. I have chosen to support it because I believe in its value.
I would love to hear from you. Please share your experience of pain, injury, and The Movement Equation in the comments below.