Is it safe (to move)?
It will probably happen to all of us at some point that we’ll have a physical experience that is painful, and that the pain resulting from that experience stays with us for an uncommonly long period of time.
In a mechanical model of health and the body we would be inclined to look for structures that explain that experience. We have a tear in some joint cartilage or some wear, or there is a compressed or stretched nerve. Some mashing, tearing or wearing someplace in the affected area.
This is based on a lack of understanding of the pain experience and a preference for tangible, structural explanations. Which sets us up with the expectation that, if I move and it hurts, then the movement is changing the structure for the worse.
The trouble with this is that movement is often very healing. If it’s been a few weeks since the painful event then much of the re-knitting of structure has already taken place, so it’s a good time to start exploring movement.
Of course you can’t just turn off the fear that painful movements are causing you harm, so you’ll need to develop some proof.
The way you do that is as follows:
Close your eyes and begin to place all your attention into the area of the body that has been causing you pain. If you know that there is a specific movement you can do that will cause pain, just keep that in your pocket for later. First do a little non-specific wiggling of the area. I like to try and find a way to make circular motions if possible. Since I’m not going to outline here ways to try moving each of the many regions of the body you get a lot of creative license. Keep it exploratory and playful.
Does this motion cause pain, apprehension or a feeling of blankness (like you can’t find that part of your body)?
Since we’re asking the question, “Is it safe to move?” Let’s talk about what to do when you find pain.
Move the body very slowly just up to the edge of the pain. Notice as the body starts to contract or feel a bit edgy. It’s telling you that it doesn’t like what you’re doing and it feels unsafe. So just stop there, don’t go any farther into the unsafe territory. You can even say to your body, “Okay, I hear you. We’ll just stop here then.”
Now breathe deeply and evenly. Notice how your muscles may have tensed up around the area and focus on letting them go. You can visualize your breathing going into the area and expanding and contracting it. If it feels too hard to let your muscles relax at all, then you can tense them up. Tense and relax, tense and relax.
How’s your body responding to this? Is it starting to feel more okay about being in this position? If so then reward its courage by offering a little light movement in the range that was previously too scary to enjoy moving.
If the body is not becoming more comfortable, but is actually becoming less comfortable then two things. First, consider that you may have passed the body’s safe barrier much sooner than you thought. Move farther back from the pain and repeat the exercise.
Second, this may be the sort of thing where movement is not wanted, or not wanted yet, so it may be appropriate that the body does not allow it. Since this is already the prevailing point of view it would do you more good to attempt the exercise a few times before discarding it.
And then there is a third that comes to mind…you may just need more help doing the exercise, or you may need to start with a different exercise.
Let me know how that goes and what you experience. That will help me write more helpful articles.