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How the Simple Act of Paying Attention to Your Movements Can Transform Your Pain

Updated: May 18

Do you have painful joints or recurring strains and muscle pulls?

« Body awareness retrains your neuromuscular system to move differently and can help relieve your pain ».

Our bodies are amazingly adaptable to what we do to it and to our environment (including stress). It doesn't take much to lose muscle when you go away on vacation for a while, for example, and to gain it back when you hit the gym again. However, the downside of this adaptable-ness is that when you do the same habitual movement patterns for decades, your body's neuromuscular system becomes stuck and pain develops from pattern overload.

It's the same with stress. Chronic, cumulative stress in our environment leads to habitual behavioral patterns that train your nervous system to stay stuck in high-alert and reactive mode. Our neurobiology is built such that it responds to what it experiences repeatedly, and gets rid of neural circuits and patterns that don't get used.

Healthcare providers call it "aging". But all it is is neuroplasticity in reverse. The beauty of "plasticity" means that is reversible and moldable. Thus, it is possible to reverse "aging" patterns of both stress and body movement by intentionally changing how you move, and how you react to stress. But how do you do that?

Changing your patterns by paying attention

The healthcare system has not progressed far enough yet to do this, and sadly neither has the fitness industry. Most doctors (primary care and specialists especially) are trained to treat the symptoms by removing or slicing or masking the affected body part, rather than looking upstream to fix the root of the problem. Physical rehab has made a lot of progress but is also mostly focused on fixing the issue at hand rather than the root cause (i.e., the movement pattern), and sadly many people under-utilize them. In the fitness industry, the myth "no pain no gain" still affects the mindset of the majority and in some circles (I won't name names), pushing through and ignoring your body's pain until you vomit or get injured is rewarded! At the gym where I work, one of our clients was frustrated with our trainers because we created a workout program for her where she didn't feel soreness for days afterward. She thought it was a problem with us, rather than a problem with her previous workouts!

There is a new physical movement science emerging, called "somatic practices", that actually retrains the body's neuromuscular system to move differently and this has been found to be a good pain management and reversal tool. Contrary to the "no pain no gain", it is not pushing your body hard or even doing physio-type rehab exercises. It is simply moving with attention, slowly, and gently. Using neuroplasticity as a scientific basis, adding intentionality or visualizing adds to its effectiveness.

« The emerging physical movement science of "somatic practices" actually retrains the body's neuromuscular system to move differently and is a good pain management and reversal tool. »

Similarly, neuroscience also teaches us that we can retrain our beliefs and ultimate behaviors through meditation and other emotional self-awareness practices.

It all comes down to: paying attention. Noticing. Feeling into what your muscles are doing. What emotions are being felt and what they feel like in your body. It applies to changing any habits. Recently I did an elimination diet where before we eliminated anything, we actually intentionally ate all the "wrong" and unhealthy foods SO THAT we could pay attention and notice the internal dialogue and emotions as well as physical sensations of eating those foods.

When you pay attention to a body movement, emotion, or food sensation, and it feels bad, your brain remembers and helps stop the pattern. In contrast, when you pay attention and it feels good, you brain remembers that too and helps reinforce that pattern. Your brain changes with awareness of new information.

And by the way, research shows that body awareness goes hand in hand with emotional awareness. So if you also want to develop better self-awareness, emotional regulation and stress relief, building awareness of your own body's movement is a great place to start!

I will be releasing an ebook soon that contains some of these somatic movement modalities as a source of pain relief and potentially for arthritis. After all, osteoarthritis usually results from physical trauma or repetitive movement injury. So, once you reverse that pattern overload and retrain your body to move differently and solicit different muscles than you are used to, you relieve the tension and inflammation and actually allow your joints and supporting connective tissues to heal.

« Body Awareness and Self-Awareness go hand in hand ».

Until then, start paying attention to your movement patterns, and when you are doing a workout or going for a walk, pay attention to which parts of your body are moving.

Connect with me if you want help finding solutions to help you relieve your pain or symptoms. I research evidence-based solutions to address the root cause of your health condition.


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