I’m often asked for the best exercise to help a certain pain or perceived weakness. Even-though measuring exercise with pain is like measuring cm with a metre stick. The common opinion that I will change how I move with the way I exercise is limited by the amount of time it takes to change, the fitness or lack of it the person has at the time of inquiry and their pattern of muscle and joint use. If the way one moves is the problem then moving more or less with exercise is not going to alter the pattern unless 6 hours a day are committed to it for 3-9 months. For most people that commitment is not possible. The idea of exercises before an adjustment in a musculo-skeletal care plan just doesn’t make sense, to me, because even when we fire our muscles differently we still use the same engram (pattern) to fire up muscles and joints into body motion.
A faster movement of muscles and joints uses the same pattern as a slower movement just in a shorter burst. Thus moving more can re-enforce a movement fault pattern perpetuating symptoms like aches, stiffness and/or pain.
(Carter MC and Shapiro DC Control of Sequential Movements Evidence for Generalised Motor Programs. Journal of Neurophysiology 1984 52 (5) 787-96).
A new Cochrane review of the best exercises for people with chronic back pain has been published this year (Jan 2016). The review is a meta analysis showing that there is no one best exercise for back pain yet it is important to exercise to help yourself. The type of exercise may well come down to your preference or possibly your practitioners experience or preferences.
How long do you continue until you throw in the towel; how long is long enough to know if your current type of exercise is helping? According to the new Cochrane review exercise programmes can last up to 12 weeks.
When I think about forming a habit I see that it takes humans between 29 and 230 days to form a psychological habit. When I see that body tissues can take 3 months to co-ordinate with each other in a new movement pattern I think 12 weeks seems that is only stage one of an exercise programme. When we first kinesthetically understand a movement in our body we are looking at a 12-16 week time frame. 12 weeks cannot include strength (posture), endurance, speed or co-ordination.
The internal arts of exercise such as Tai Chi, which has been shown to help chronic back pain is said to take 1000 hours of practise to become a beginner and 10000 hours to become adept. The internal arts help you to develop an representation of your body in your imagination. We actually have several body maps in our brain e.g in the basal ganglia (brain stem), the cortex, thalamus and cerebellum. This means that our internal perspective of our body can be altered by stimuli that does not originate from the body. This perhaps is why yogis have many different representations of their body; physical body, emotional body, spiritual body etc…
An exercise programme needs to make sense, be worthwhile affordable and accessible. Starting out with fascia first chiropractic to help your body get there quicker and to educate and reassure you that pain is not something to automatically fear; you could be embarking upon a realistic plan of rehabilitation. Walking the fine line of adaptation and neuroplasticity.
When you are a can do-er working through discomfort can be a part of your life. Pushing the envelope to grow toward your potential is commendable and I thoroughly recommend it. When you do work through a discomfort (or a pain) you can psychologically move to a new normal; no problem. Psychologically we have no boundaries. Physically we do; the most obvious being your skin less obvious being dysafferentation.
Due to the lack of knowledge that humans have about a human body we humans can sometimes create more problems than we solve when we push through it once. When we push through it more than once we can accumulate (learn bad habits) errors. As we move with error we abnormally load our body tissues. Abnormal loading of body tissues leads to degeneration. Normally loaded tissues last a lifetime. If you are broadening your horizons your body might just thank you now for regularly taking it to Fascia First Chiropractic. Your psychology can thank you later as you enjoy your body for years longer. This is of course my opinion but here’s a little of the why:
- The fascia of the human body talks to the brain telling it where and how your body is.
- The superficial fascia is densely packed with pain fibres.
- Fascia is the reason (not muscle tissue) why you get D.O.M.S. (delayed onset muscle soreness) after exercise.
- Fascia has more free nerve endings in it than your eyes; so the potential for pain is very high.
- Under abnormal loading fascia can grow in on itself creating an ‘in-growth’ of highly pain sensitive tissue. Perhaps how something seems to ‘go’ without due provocation.
- The fascia is responsible for housing nerves. The nerve sheath is innervated by the nervi nervorum and could be the cause of ‘nerve’ pain. Fascia can also mimic muscle pain….
- Increased adrenergic signalling in the fascia leads to a vasoconstriction of blood vessels slowing up nutrient delivery to your fascia. This could worsen an immune condition, a pain syndrome or a symptom that seems to be ‘stress related’.
- Autonomic tone can change fascial stiffness; When you are stressed your autonomic tone will change as will the stiffness of your fascia (body). This stiffness needs to be balanced not just worked out.
- The fascia feeds information into your insula nucleus in your limbic brain about the pH, temperature and ion content of your connective tissue. Your limbic system can alter your ability to handle stress, socially interact well, and alter your sensitivity to fear and pain.
- An immune response can also stiffen your fascia through a marker known as TGF-B1. Think of how you might stiffen up and get achy when you have a bad bout of the flu. Yes it needs balancing out afterward. An autoimmune condition is when you are stuck in a constant immune response and an allergy is an immune response to a given irritant.
Fascia First Chiropractic is more than a quick click. Fascia is behind the rate at which you are currently stiffening (ageing) over time.
Source: Tozzi P. (2015) Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 19 310-326.
Stroll under the Skin A you tube video where you can see and learn more about fascia.
We know the hypothalamus (a part of the human brain) is highly plastic (changeable), in fact some say the most plastic part of the brain. The hypothalamus stimulates or inhibits hormones. Hormones secreted by the hypothalamus are able to alter the job of certain cells. Thus a chain of possible change within any and every human is present. When we stimulate the hypothalamus to produce particular hormones we learn automatically a default to produce them. One could say we get more used to being us.
We are actually rewarded in the brain with opiates when our regular ‘molecules of emotion’ are released. When we try another way (state of mind) we do not get a reward, why effort is required to change, why a feeling of being wrong comes with any change we try. Those that are guided by that inner feeling are shied away from change because it doesn’t ‘feel right’. Those who are in their head have a flurry of mixed thoughts, tangential ideas and not knowing for sure that their current action is the ‘correct one’. Those that are guided by how their body is; tend to get a difference in their body such as they do not feel good in their body, they are sluggish or they have transitory pains that aren’t usually there, for example.
For me the way the media reports upon ‘mind over matter’ can lead one falsely down a path of whenever I need I can control anything that comes. Like being a superhero. In the real world we cannot control everything. Monks who live on mountain tops in isolation for 30 years do not get to reach enlightenment. Really any mind over matter situation needs to be delineated from ‘pushing through it’ and to have a time frame added. For most people they do not have a spare 30 years to try it out to see for themselves!
Essentially we are human beings with many different ways to be (states of mind). We will find it easier to be different or to change whilst our nervous system is still growing (spinal columns complete in 4th decade of life). After this time the amount of effort required for change becomes increased as more energy is required to make a change e.g. rewire our brain. With every change thus comes the wobbly part big or small, short or long.
The icing on the cake of difficulty with change after 40 is the future psychology of human beings. Doing things in the future is easier than actually doing them. The future psychology of taking out credit is a great example of how we consider it less of a risk because I can pay it (do it) later. Whilst we need time to be human beings with meditation we also need time to be human doings with exercise. Both exercise and meditation have been shown to have an epi-genetic effect toward health. Next time you are considering making a change do not underestimate the amount of effort required, time required and energy required whilst also not forgetting to include the amount of euphoria and reward you will receive when you ‘make it there’.
For example a study was able to demonstrate that actual physical muscle growth was achieved over a 6 week period of imagining a gym programme; yes our minds can affect physical body tissues and no it is not an easy thing to add to your already busy life. Hence why no man is an island and we need help from others e.g. a chiropractor to help my body move better helping my body tissues last longer as a complimentary lifestyle choice to regular exercise and a healthy diet. Sometimes however issues of trust and of giving over control can get in the way of you getting off your own inner island and making a powerful healthful connection with another human being (in my opinion).