Most people think that, inevitably, everybody experiences some kind of chronic pain. We’ve been acculturated to believe that pain is our only problem, and if we get rid of pain then all our troubles are over. We have learned that the primary solution we need in order to live with pain is medication to minimize pain. We tend to treat conditions that cause pain as though the pain is the cause of the condition. Therefore, if we only get rid of the pain from that condition, then our ability to live with the condition will be sufficient for quality living.
If you or I were to go to most health professionals in physical medicine, such as an orthopedist, chiropractor, physical therapist, massage therapist, athletic trainer- we might say, “My neck hurts; my back hurts; my feet hurt.” The response that we would expect to receive is, “I can help you get rid of that pain.” Even if the health professional says, “Your back hurts because you have these other problems,” our tendency is to only continue treatment for the pain until that pain goes away. Then we discontinue treatment even if the health professional can do more for us to prevent that pain from returning. As a result of our human tendencies, we still attempt to respond to pain with temporary solutions that affect our perception of the problems that cause pain.
We have to expand our perspective in order to truly understand the nature of chronic pain. For the moment, consider the notion that problems cause pain. Embrace the possibility that our basic state of being is supposed to be pleasure, freedom, and vitality. Whenever our body has a limitation on its ability to have freedom of movement, there may be a negative effect on our physiological processes. Also, if there is not sufficient strength and/or flexibility, we may experience pain or discomfort. Whenever we are not experiencing pleasure and freedom from our bodies, then there is a problem.
We have to ask ourselves this sequence of questions: “I’m experiencing pain. What condition is existing that my body would be giving me a pain signal? What did I do to create those conditions? How can I reverse my behavior to alter the conditions so that I will experience pleasure, freedom, and ability instead?”
What needs to be done in order to restore the vital integrity of the structural support system of my body? Let’s look at the things that take away our physical freedom, pleasure, and aliveness.
(1) Bone misalignment – When bones are not lined up perfectly, there will be joint wear and tear and loss of movement.
(2) Muscle tension – A lack of flexibility can cause compression and prevent joint lubrication
(3) Loss of Free Movement – It can cause an imbalanced load on joints and muscles.
(4) Tension Imbalance – It will cause overwork on weaker muscles.
(5) Poor Use – When a person has an ergonomically inefficient way of working, weight and work is distributed to the wrong parts of the body. Over time this leads to muscle and joint wear and tear.
(6) Posture Implosion – The body starts to collapse in on itself because there isn’t a sufficient amount of flexibility and strength to keep the body aligned and free to move.
(7) Physiological Imbalances – A compressed ribcage will exert pressure on hollow organs, which can raise blood pressure cause altered body chemistry, menstrual cramps, or stomach problems. Pressure on the abdomen may affect gas in the stomach and intestines. A lack of movement can affect the flow of lymph fluid which can affect immune system strength, and may affect the passage of fluid during the menstrual cycle.
(8) Obstruction, due to an internal growth – Could cause pressure in a confined space or limit the physiological function of an organ.
Consider a typical suspension bridge. It has its pillars and towers of support, its road bed and cross members that tie two pillars of support together. The integrity of the steel and the cable system together allow for support and dynamic responsiveness to weather, temperature, barometric pressure changes, as well as weight-support of the bridge itself and the vehicles traveling across the bridge. With this understanding, you can make this assertion: What makes a suspension bridge healthy is a balanced cable assembly, supported by a sturdy and dynamic frame. The frame and the cable assembly are truly two essential aspects of the same mechanism. One cannot coexist in a dynamic environment without the other.
Our bodies have a similar process. Structurally, we have our support beams in the form of our bones. But we also have our cable system in the form of our muscles, tendons, and myofascial meridians. Like rivets between the support beams of a bridge, we have our ligaments between the bones, which allow for movement but also provide structural integrity. Just like in a suspension bridge, if one of the cross-beams or cable systems is out of balance, is too heavy, has too much pressure, or has an accident or disaster occur, that suspension bridge will automatically react and can’t maintain its integrity without something else breaking down.
Structural chronic pain usually happens because there is some misalignment or imbalance somewhere in our body. There may also be a constellation of other problems that occur because of the misalignment. Our bodies are designed to give us pleasure as a byproduct of our alignment, strength, breath, stamina, and freedom of movement.
What needs to be addressed is structural alignment and tension balance which includes restoring muscular elasticity for freedom of movement. With all those things amply balanced, your body again becomes a pleasure generating system. With each type of misalignment or imbalance, you may need a specialist whose main focus is bringing relief to imbalances or injuries that occur in one specific area. Many of our health care providers have conjugated into these specialties and sub-specialties. This is a good thing for everyone, with two possible exceptions:
- Very often, a specialist of any discipline has a tendency to focus on the function and breakdown that only occurs in their one specialty. However this may not be a wide enough perspective of the whole being to bring about long-lasting improvement.
- Second, we have a tendency to believe that our problems can only be fixed by someone else or their remedies. We think we have no important role to play in the resolution of our problem. We have a tendency to believe that having our problem is inevitable, and we should learn to live with our problem no matter the cost.
What we do in Reposturing is ascertain where imbalances exist in a person’s entire body. On your very first assessment appointment, we want to know what physical activities you engaged in throughout your life. We’re interested in any injuries, surgeries, illnesses or conditions, as well as the physical demands of your work and more. All of these situations have an effect on your experience of your body. When we understand the byproduct of your chronic pain and what conditions exist in your life, it will help us understand how to help, if we can at all.
Unfortunately, for those of us suffering from chronic pain, there is the constant influence of the physical demands of work. Sitting at your desk for a considerable length of time can affect your experience of chronic pain because there isn’t enough movement for the whole body to keep itself healthy. The process of sitting in a chair cuts off circulation to the lower body and may lead to low back pain, high blood pressure, and other physiological problems.
With chronic pain, you have to ascertain the nature of the origin of existing problems, conditions and symptoms. For the Posturist or Reposturing practitioner, we determine which one of the symptoms is the starting point. The part that hurts on one’s body the most isn’t necessarily the part that should get the most attention. A person with low back pain will typically be addressed by doing a facilitated series of stretches on the inner and front thigh muscles. A person with upper back pain will typically experience treatment on the chest, arms, and shoulders. A person with neck pain may find us working on their arms and shoulders more than their neck itself.
Follow-on exercises are necessary to reverse the original imbalance that may have led to chronic pain. For example, when we have upper back pain, the solution is more strength in the upper back and more flexibility in the front of the chest and shoulders. The resting position of the shoulder is behind the midline with the middle edges of the shoulder blades close to the spine. For low back pain, the remedy is stretches for the front of the thighs and inner thighs. Back strength is essential. Often, what we are missing is flexibility in the deep muscles of the back. Applying Reposturing treatment to the hips also works for people who have chronic feet problems. With better alignment, the balance gets better and foot pain usually reduces. The feet are free to provide balance and support and stability in movement.
For people suffering from chronic pain, Reposturing opens up a possibility to ending the control your affliction has over your life. If your back has been hurting you for years, the back pain owns your life. If our jaw hurts, we manage our daily lives around that jaw pain. Chronic pains prevent you from participating fully with your family, having a full night’s rest, from even enjoying social and professional activities.
Vanessa M. came in with chronic fatigue syndrome. In addition to her chronic fatigue syndrome, she had chronic pain in her jaw, shoulders, and low back. For this woman, we provided a Reposturing treatment to restore flexibility to her shoulders and hips and arms. This helped create the foundation for release of chronic tension in her jaw, neck, head, low back, legs, and feet. When we restored her uprightness and freedom of movement, much of her pain subsided.
Reposturing is a key to having your life back. It’s a key to having the freedom to say “yes” to your participation in activities, functions, and responsibilities that are important to your life. It’s an essential element to creating a sense of wholeness, pleasure and fulfillment as a human being.
Successful treatment of chronic pain may result in some welcome surprises. For example, Carolyn came in for neck and shoulder pain. We did some Reposturing treatment on her chest, neck and shoulders. By surprise, her vertigo (chronic dizziness) subsided and never came back. Kathleen’s hips were so misaligned that she was experiencing chronic pain in the groin area. As a result of the new flexibility in her deep hip and low back muscles, her pelvic bones spontaneously went back into alignment and the pain went away. Her quote was, “I’ve been feeling chronic pain in my groin for years! I thought I had a yeast infection.”
Many health care providers have been frustrated by a lack of resources to create positive and satisfactory outcomes for their patients who are suffering with chronic pain. Reposturing enables the physical medicine professionals of tomorrow to educate patients on how and why they are suffering from their affliction. Reposturing also provides an effective self-care resource to recommend for patients.
The Reposturing perspective enables the health and wellness professional in physical medicine to have effective outcome-based medicine. A few years ago, a health organization conducted a study on hospital patient satisfaction. They found that many of their patients would go in to be treated for a health problem, and their patients would leave without a solution to that problem. They had a tendency to live with that problem and blame it on the medicine that didn’t work. The organization’s response was a push toward “outcome-based” medicine. This gave rise to the industry-wide emphasis on outcome-based medicine.
The days are changing for the conventional health care system. People have many resources, including their exercise instructors, etc. There will continue to be millions of people for whom medication is their only choice to manage their chronic pain. However, there are a considerable number of people who want to take control of their chronic pain. Reposturing provides a resource for this community with long lasting positive outcomes.