Pain is one of the most valuable assets to healing an injury. But, you have to learn the language of pain or it may become your biggest enemy. Learning to understand pain more fully is one of the biggest keys to healing yourself safely, fully and quickly.
Pain is your friend, sort of…
One of the most common questions we get is how to do a rehab program? You do set of healing techniques, stretches, exercises, etc. but how do you tailor them to your unique body and injury?
At HEM and Malin Method, we are huge believers that everyone has some things in common (muscles, ligaments, body dynamics, etc), but lots of differences that separate their bodies from everyone else. Your experiences throughout your life (posture, injuries, lifestyle, past, etc.) are totally unique and it is all reflected in your body.
So, rehab is all about honoring where you are at this moment and then finding a safe and positive approach to healing. And although it is the same basic road, there are so many places you can get lost.
Fortunately, pain is one of the biggest roadmaps available to you and can keep you on track. But, instead of looking at pain as an enemy, try seeing it for what it really is… one of your best guides to healing. Pain tells you what’s wrong, it tells you where it’s wrong and it keeps you from making it worse. It’s a language without words, but if you want to get beyond it, you have to learn to fully understand it.
And no one can do it for you… only you can feel what’s going on inside your body. Only you know how bad it hurts and where. Only you know what your body can and cannot do, because you are living in it. But, pain also holds the key to get past those restrictions and injuries into a pain-free, mobile and strong body. It is one of your best teachers. Being grateful for it is a hard concept to get comfortable with, but that’s where you need to start…
The language of pain
When you are in pain, it’s hard to concentrate… it’s hard to work… it’s hard to play. You have to give up doing what you love. Pain is a brutal teacher and it will not be ignored. Ignoring pain is one of the biggest mistakes you could ever make. It can get irritated very quickly and then gets even worse. It’s like a beast that never sleeps, never eats, and just torments you. So, let’s start there…
When you start a rehab program to heal an injury or chronic pain in any area of your body, you have to understand that pain is trying to talk to you. Your body is brilliant. Pain is trying to protect you from further harm. And pain is telling you exactly what’s wrong, it’s just that you do not understand it. You only feel the pain. But, if you really start to listen, pain will tell you exactly what to do next…
So, let’s start at the beginning. You’re in pain right now. You just got injured or you’ve been in pain for a long time and it’s something chronic. The first thing you have to do is relax and breathe. See if you can go inward and identify exactly where the pain is… where does it hurt and when? Does it hurt moving going this way or that? Does it hurt at this angle or that? Get to know the pain intimately.
Then, when you start moving around a little bit for the purpose of healing and rehab, do it very slowly, very gently. This is not a race and it’s definitely not a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. This is a life-long journey, because it’s your body forever. This is all about an experience of self-discovery that never ends (even though the pain will). And then, you’ll look back and be thankful for the pain. It started you on this journey and eventually, you will leave it behind, like an old friend that stayed behind.
Okay, let’s get specific… once you know where and when it hurts, avoid those movements entirely. Pain is talking to you… it’s saying don’t do that… yet. Maybe, try again tomorrow or in a few days or next week. Rain check on that one. But, what about moving at a different angle or in a different way? Pain says that movement is okay. All right, now we’re making some progress. Work on that one and then try the next thing and so on…
Another key is to make sure what you are doing is safe and helpful. The techniques, stretches and exercises have to be spot on. So, choose a physical therapist or rehab program that will get you safe and effective results. There are lots of exercises and stretches to choose from, but your injury will require a very specific program to get real results. We created HEM and Malin Method to accomplish this, but even if you don’t choose us, just make sure you choose a great program to ensure you get the results you need.
Being sore and tight is NOT the same as pain
As you start working through some techniques, stretches, and exercises, you will start to figure out what you can and cannot do yet. If the rehab program is top notch, you will start feeling better in about 5-10 days. Then, you will be able to do more. The pain may start to lessen a little bit… It may not be as severe or acute. Remember, it’s talking to you all the time. Maybe, you can push into that gently and see what happens, always being respectful of your teacher.
If you do too much and ignore the pain signals, you will cause more damage and take a step backward in the healing process. So, take your time. Go slowly. Go gently. Honor your body and where it’s at. Back off and try again tomorrow.
Here’s where it gets interesting… you will find some areas that are tight and sore, but not painful. They feel creaky, unstable, tight, and stiff, but you do NOT get any shooting pain when you do that movement.
This is important: you want to keep moving into that, keep gently pushing. Your body is coming back, but it’s very weak. Do not over-do it! But, gently lean into that movement and work through it. If you don’t, your body will harden over time and never regain that natural flexibility and strength in that area on its own.
You also may find that even though a movement is not painful, it gets super sore the next day. That’s okay! That just means the area is very weak and probably part of the reason you got injured in the first place. Be a detective. Watch your body. Never stop watching and discovering and learning…
As time goes on, you will make small strides and then some really big ones. You will start to get stronger, more flexible and the pain will continue to subside. Eventually, you will be pain-free. Yes, it happens. But, never forget the lessons you learned and keep learning about how your body moves. Keep working on it, because the journey never ends. Only now, you’ve learned a new language… one that has opened a whole new world to you. So, be grateful for pain… it is a great teacher!