If your job, occupation or hobby does not include manual labor such as construction, landscaping, or farm work, you will need to do some functional strength, stability training and mobility stretching to stay strong and pain-free as you age. Period.
Ask around. How many people do you know that complain about something in their back, neck, shoulders or knees that is causing them discomfort?
The majority of people that come to see me for Rolfing® Structural Integration have some degree of chronic pain. Back in the day, Dr. Ida P. Rolf developed Rolfing for the “average random body” to help people have better alignment, posture, and support in gravity. The small percentage that come to me for that reason get wonderful results. The majority, who come because of pain (they’ve “tried everything”), will usually get some relief through manual manipulation of tissues, however, to maintain that relief, I find that they also need two more critical elements: stability and mobility. Otherwise the tissue release is just a quick fix that often doesn’t last.
We no longer have to hunt or forage for food, nor sprint after prey. We sit for extended periods of time at computers, desks and couches, and weaken ourselves with inactivity.
STRENGTH = STABILITY + MOBILITY
Strength = stability + mobility. I’m not talking about having huge biceps, lats, pecs and an eight pack. Or "doing legs" or "doing arms". I’m talking about the stability and strength that you get from movements such as dead lifts, ball slams, walking squats, lateral band work, rowing, hip & ankle mobilizations, etc., in other words, movements that we do that are “functional” and that simply use our body weight as resistance.
If my clients with some type of chronic pain decided to commit to functional movement training 2-3 days a week, they would almost certainly have some decrease in pain.
You can have chronic issues and be seemingly “strong”, but weak in the muscles of stabilization. Those are the muscles that we need to find, acknowledge, and strengthen. Those muscles are accessed through functional movements. Or perhaps you need your ankles, hips or thoracic spine to have more mobility?
In order to lift a car wheel and put it in storage without hurting yourself, you need the correct combination of mobility and stability and the ability to engage your abdominal muscles and support your lower back BEFORE you lift. How about effortlessly being able to carry two large bags through the airport, shovel, drag your garbage to the curb, play in your garden, or lie on your back under your car and change the oil?
Many people injure themselves shoveling. Lifting and twisting is a challenging motion that has the potential to injure backs, necks, forearms and shoulders if you don’t focus on form or have the muscles supporting each other and moving in synergy. It’s no surprise that the people who fare best moving copious amounts of snow are people who are used to farm work, manual labor, or who functionally strength train regularly. This demonstrated to me just how weak the majority of us really are as a society.
Even those who regularly participate in activities such as running, cycling, swimming, or ball sports need to be sure that their stability muscles are engaging. I have seen athletes who can run 50 miles, but are actually weak as far as stability. Perhaps their glutes never even fire. I ran distance for years before I realized that my glutes weren't even working!
ON YOGA & PILATES
Many people ask me about yoga. It is my opinion that yoga is a practice for balancing flexibility and strength. For those who have limited range of motion and are strong and stable, but inflexible, yoga is wonderful. For those who are hyper-mobile and unstable, yoga can increase that instability as they are already plenty flexible.
Pilates is another way to access the deeper, intrinsic stability muscles. It is a wonderful way to find muscles you never knew you had! Find a knowledgeable Pilates instructor and do some one-on-one training before jumping into a class where you don’t know the correct form.
In all activities, correct form is more important than doing the activity itself. Perfect practice makes perfect.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL?
This brings us to the “one size fits all” mentality that is ubiquitous in almost all things health. Every individual has specific needs for nutrition, supplementation and movement. Finding BALANCE in everything is a personal quest. I do, however, find that EVERYONE can benefit from functional strength training with correct form and it seems to be a missing puzzle piece in chronic pain management.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
I highly recommend finding a trainer that knows anatomy and injuries well. Those are the people who understand form and what each exercise is achieving. One-on-one instruction or small groups is preferred when getting started. Small groups are a wonderful way to get energized and to be held accountable for actually going! Having a regular schedule and showing up are the building blocks because once you go a few times and feel the benefits, you will want to continue to strengthen your body and mind. Being able to move with strength and ease will become part of your life!
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Start today by checking the internet for local trainers who are skilled and knowledgeable about the body. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself.
Fell free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for referrals for local trainers in Central Oregon. I currently work on my own movement and help others to do this at Recharge in Bend, OR. There are many very qualified trainers there.