Moving Out Of Chronic Pain

Where do you start moving out of chronic pain?

There is so much advice around about exercise and movement but not all of it is suitable if you have chronic or persistent pain.

In my chronic pain recovery journey I tried many approaches. My muscles felt so tight that I tried stretching, but this gave me pain. I changed tack and thought well maybe my muscles are weak and need strengthening, so I tried pilates. This hurt too as my overwhelmed body and muscles didn’t like repetitive movements. So I tried yoga. Now not all yoga is created equal but the class I went to involved sustained postures and guess what, my body didn’t like that either. No exercise or moving worked until I discovered the mindbody approach to chronic pain recovery.

So one of the biggest things I learnt once I had discovered SIRPA – The Stress Illness Recovery Association- is that chronic/persistent/long term pain that has been present for more than 3 months is usually no longer related to tissue damage. Once I found this out it changed how I moved and how I exercised because I now knew that I was not damaging myself. So I could move without fear.

I am sure many of you here have come across our approach to chronic pain. But if not, you can find out more in our mindbody toolkit here.

The most important part of moving if you have chronic pain is to start with practices that feel safe. It is also important to reassure yourself whilst moving. Have a positive affirmation to repeat to yourself such as ‘my body is strong’ or ‘I am safe to move’. These are cues of safety to your nervous system and will help lessen its reaction to getting moving. It may still be uncomfortable but the 5 practices we have included here should be safe for most people and build that feeling that movement is OK to do even you experience some sensation with it.

As with all exercises if you are in any doubt about any movement practice always always check with your medical practitioner.

1. A Safe Way To Move With Chronic Pain

Getting started can be difficult so here is a simple video that should be suitable for everybody. This video gets you in touch with getting moving. It explores being aware of your body so just go with the flow. Do it sitting down or standing up. Do it for as long as feels suitable and right for your body. Note how you feel before you start and how you feel at the finish – physically or emotionally. Do it as often as you like.

2. Introducing Somatic Movement

A somatic movement is a movement that’s practiced consciously with the intention of focusing on the internal experience of the movement rather than the external appearance or the end result of the movement.

So, technically any movement can be somatic if you focus your attention on what you’re feeling in your body as you move. Forget about what you look like while you’re moving, and don’t think about the end result of your movement, like lifting your leg to a certain height. That doesn’t matter. If you just focus your attention completely on what you’re feeling in your body as you’re moving, then the movement is somatic.

Learning to move somatically aligns with a mindbody approach to chronic pain recovery. It is about listening and feeling safety in movement. We will be bringing you more somatic movement so keep checking back to the website. For now here is a lovely 15 minute somatic routine for you to try.

3. Somatic Release For Lower Back Pain

We can use somatic movement as a way to release the low back. This video leads up to and includes a really gentle, supportive and massively effective release for the low back. Give it a try.

4. Gentle Thoracic Movements For Chronic Pain And Fatigue

The thoracic spine or upper back can become very tight in those experiencing chronic pain. It is a naturally stiffer part of the body due to the ribs but it can become more stiff when we are experiencing stress and anxiety. It is an area that is important to the body from a nervous system point of view as it houses a proportion of the autonomic/ automatic nervous system. The ANS controls many automatic functions of the body such as respiration and heart rate but it is also at the centre of our stress response. So this exercise not only helps to mobilise the spine and ribs, it helps to balance the ANS. When our body comes out of a high alert (fight or flight) state it can relax and this lessens our pain.

5. A Simple Qigong Routine

Qigong, pronounced “chi gong,” was developed in China thousands of years ago as part of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves using exercises to optimize energy within the body, mind, and spirit, with the goal of improving and maintaining health and well-being. Qigong has both psychological and physical components and involves the regulation of the mind, breath, and body’s movement and posture.

 In most forms of qigong:

  • Breath is slow, long, and deep. Breath patterns may switch from abdominal breathing to breathing combined with speech sounds.
  • Movements are typically gentle and smooth, aimed for relaxation.
  • Mind regulation includes focusing one’s attention and visualization.

Here is a simple beginner’s routine that moves and engages all parts of the body in balance with the breath. If you want more qigong information the visit the qigong page in the mindbody toolkit.

We hope that you have found a movement practice here that suits you. If you have any questions or want advice about movement then do get in touch.

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