When people come to me with pain issues ( which happens multiple times daily) I am always a bit perplexed as to why their physicians tell them to simply go home and- rest. There are so many reasons that we have pain. Most of the time you will know why. Sometimes it is unknown causes. While there are certainly times in our lives when rest is appropriate for healing, my experience and education has taught me that “movement heals” far greater than rest. When have you ever heard of someone having a joint replaced or ligament fixed and told to go home sit and do nothing til it heals? If that were the case us therapists would not have jobs.
The question I would like you to ask yourself is “what do you do for MOST each day?” What I mean is, what activities do you spend most of your time doing? Not just exercise and major activity, but in terms of your job, what you do at home after work, and how do you do it? My opinion is that you are at REST more than you think you are, and these so-called rest activities are many times one of the major culprits of pain for people and the cause of the slow healing.
If you are a chronic pain sufferer or have postural pain like neck and low back. I challenge you to do a log for a few days. Log how many hours you spend sitting, sleeping, driving, laying on the couch, reading, texting, sitting at your computer. I think you will be surprised as to how much “rest” time you are actually doing. What the next challenge is- is to evaluate your postural positions while doing these activities— or better yet have a spouse or family member TELL you how you look doing these activities. I just told my hubby this morning how horribly he was slouching over his Cheerios. You may find that the culprit to your chronic pain is entirely due to your very own- rest position. Poor postural alignment at rest allows some muscles to tighten while others to lengthen. These imbalances cause pain. You are resting more than you think people- and your body is screaming in pain at you trying to get your attention !
Instead of popping several pain killers or using heat/ice etc. Why not get up and move? A short walk, a quick spin on the bike, gentle stretching? Your goal when healing is repetitive gentle, non-harmful movement done regularly. You cannot say-“well , I did aerobics today for an hour” and then be in your rest positions the rest of the day. Movement every 1/2 hour during waking hours is what you need if you have pain. If by chance you try to get a referral to see a professional to help with pain, and your healthcare provider tells you to take Advil and rest for 2 weeks and then maybe they will give you a referral– find yourself a new physician. There is no reason that you should not be in charge of your healing and making things right sooner rather then later. Later is usually when the muscles, your mind and your movement have already gotten into a pain cycle which is usually hard to break and extends the healing process.
If you came to see me in the clinic, you would not be encouraged to cancel your appointment if you had pain. You would come to therapy and work through the pain in a non- destructive way. You are also given a home program to be done throughout your day ( not just for 1 hour and then done) . I tell all my clients that if you are seeing me 3 times a week for an hour– that is about 2-3% of your time. You can’t accomplish much in that time so you need to follow through and keep moving on your own.
So look at your log– do your rest activities FAR out weigh your non-rest activities? Are you moving enough and are you resting in good alignment that promotes healthy bone and muscle positioning? To put a twist on Smokey the Bears theme– only YOU can prevent Pain. So move frequently and rest efficiently !