When you hear the phrase, "using movement as medicine," what does it make you think? To us this means exercise is one of our most significant interventions. In our office, when we have a patient do a movement for an exam, the first intervention we try is an active one, before we even start manipulating joints or mobilizing soft tissue.
We do this for a couple reasons. The most significant reason by far is the empowerment that active care provides to our patients. When someone is in pain, and then they perform a specific exercise that relieves their pain, they can immediately feel more control over their condition.
They now have a tool that they can use anytime their condition bothers them outside of our office, and they are now an active participant in their own musculoskeletal healthcare.
This participation is the key to managing our own musculoskeletal health throughout our life. Our bodies were made to move in many ways within the range of our personal anatomy. They were made to work, and I don’t mean repetitive factory work or sitting at a desk and typing, our bodies are designed to walk, run, crawl, jump, climb, throw, and anything else we could do to ensure our survival in our distant past.
It’s a problem that our bodies are usually confined to limited movement variation, if not limited movement altogether these days; because if we don’t use it, we can lose it. There are many organizations that benefit from the status quo, our employer and the fitness industry for example. But we don’t really gain much from it.
We have stability, and comfort, and leisure time; but our physical health seems to be declining in the face of chronic illness that can sometimes be managed by our choices or the choices presented to us.
We’re always glad to hear it when people start prioritizing the gym in their busy schedules, but we have to always urge caution at first, because there is nothing that slows progress more than an injury. We see a lot of active people in our office, because they are often busy at work and in their lives, so they can only find an hour every other day or so to work out.
Obviously we want to maximize our efficiency in these situations, and that’s certainly possible, but we need to manage our expectations regarding our body’s capability. As previously stated, if we don’t use it, we lose it.
Essentially we’re proponents of movement exploration. We want you to try new things, with the awareness of your body’s capabilities always at the forefront of your mind. If you run all the time, try lifting some weights, or walking, or better yet, hiking.
Of course if you are mostly doing high intensity interval training, try to break up that stress on the system with a brisk walk or bike ride.
Dance frequently, and to the full extent of your range of motion. Do yoga, swing kettlebells, try a martial art. We want your time at a typical gym to be the thing that you have to do because you don’t have time for your usual physical activity, as opposed to your usual physical activity being thirty minutes on the treadmill.
The body loves a good challenge, and movement variability is constant challenge, both mentally and physically.
So if you are on a bar league softball team and you spend a lot of time at a desk, do a thorough warm-up before the game, a cool-down after the game, and make sure to find other ways to move your body three or four more times that week.
If your work requires constant movement within a certain range of movements (factory work, which can be very repetitive and somewhat harmful), try to find a couple different ways to move your body that allow for the whole range of motion (yoga and martial arts come to mind).
The body requires maintenance, the more you use it, the more it needs. Fortunately, the body’s healing takes care of most of that, in conjunction with adequate rest; and movement can be very effective at supplementing.
You can do the vast majority of that maintenance yourself, even all of it. There will be aches and pains, but they aren’t necessarily harmful. They probably will benefit from rest, or activities that require less or different effort. There can be injuries, and to speed up the healing of those you can enlist the help of a musculoskeletal health professional, like a sports chiropractor or physical therapist.
We just can’t sit back and let the professionals play the sports for us, we have to be very active participants in our own physical health, and we have to find the types of movement that bring us joy, so that we keep doing them.