Thursday, January 19, 2017

Does Exercise Make Pain Better or Worse?

It can go either way. So the answer is, yes! The body has the ability to compensate all the time in order to keep us moving throughout our day. As we move throughout the day, our body changes along with it. Our structure changes and our muscles change roles as well. I have clients who workout in order to stay out of pain and I have clients who claim that working out makes their pain much worse. I have walked both roads, so I am going to share what my path was like with you. 

My husband and I moved to Columbus, Ohio in 2001. I was very heavy at the time. The heaviest I had ever been. I was working at a music store at the time. I was in a plaza in between a Kroger and a Papa John's, so my "snack" every day was either a king sized Snickers from Kroger or a full order of bread sticks from Papa John's. After a few months of that, I joined Jenny Craig and started exercising. Exercising went great for many years. I was feeling better, stronger and lost a lot of weight. I was exercising to exercise videos at home. Something in my body started to change over time, however. When I used to be a physical therapist assistant student, I noticed that my classmates, who did not workout, could do things that I could not. It was drastic to the point that my instructors were concerned about whether or not I could physically handle being a PTA. When I took their advice about exercise and stepped it up in the manner they suggested, I would get better and stronger at first, but when I relapsed, I was worse than I was before and weaker, instead of stronger. The more I pushed myself, the worse and the more weak that I got. Fast forward after graduating massage school. I was told by another massage therapist that yoga is good and other types of workouts caused further injury. Since yoga made me feel better, instead of worse, I became a yoga only person for a while. For many years, actually. After years of being a massage therapist, I had taken some continuing education. Neurokinetic therapy and Voila Method of Structural Joint balancing changed my life so that I can do more traditional workouts again. Neurokinetic therapy addresses muscle function and compensation patterns and addresses it so that muscles can do their job. I realized when I was getting weaker, instead of stronger, that my muscles were dysfunctional. When you work out a muscle that is functioning properly, you feel stronger. When you workout a muscle that is dysfunctional, you feel like you are fighting a losing battle. Even the yoga had its challenges. By going to classes on occasion instead of only doing it from home via DVD, I realized that I used my neck jaw to compensate for my core whenever I did downdog or chaturanga. Having a teacher to watch you and correct form made all the difference in the world. And the person who did Neurokinetic therapy on me would fix these compensation patterns, so that I could use my muscles properly, as long as I remembered not to kick in my neck and jaw for my core. When I took the Voila Method class, that took my healing even further. Since it is gentle and can correct structure quickly, it got me back into my more traditional workouts, in addition to my yoga. When trained in Voila, the practitioner can do it on themselves, so I balance myself out before, during and after working out. Since working on ourselves is not the same thing as seeing professionals, I still see someone else for Voila and Neurokinetic therapy. She finds patterns that could have turned into something bad, even when I feel great and am there for maintenance/prevention. Now, the workouts have me feeling better than I have in years, instead of worse like years ago. It took me many years and seeing different people to get where I am at today. It did not happen overnight. I also worked out one on one with a fitness coach who watches for muscle function and can tell when your body is done. Working out with her gave me hope and a new lease on life. Now, she's a little bummed that her group classes aren't challenging enough for me, more like a warm up compared to the level of intensity that I am now used to with my DVDs  LOL. 

The most important take away is don't go at it alone. If you go at it alone, you will be more prone to injury. I have clients who workout at gyms without seeing the trainers or who workout on their own from home or ask me what yoga DVDs I like, etc.  I do not like the idea of them making these decisions on their own. I used to do yoga on my own from home before going to a studio and I made a lot of mistakes with form that caused me more problems. I currently have a client right now who used to go at it alone. She kept giving me plenty of things to do with her each session.  Now that she has a gym memebership and takes advantage of group classes with instruction, she is doing amazing in her sessions with me. She is now maintenance/prevention instead of treatments.

For more information about what Voila Method and Neurokinetic Therapy are, I have a page about each on my website:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Staying Stuck in Pain

There are numerous reasons why the body can stay stuck in pain.  Those of us who specialize are used to seeing people who have already tried everything else out there.  Some, we have been able to help and some, we haven't.  The biggest challenge are those who don't want to try something else.  I get that.  How much more can you take emotionally if you end up with another disappointment and more money spent.  Yep, it sucks.  Many of us who specialize have been there.  Many of us got into our chosen fields due to needing help for ourselves.  Years ago, I was getting therapy that no matter how often I went or what self care advice that I took, the problem always came back.  I was angry!  I was frustrated!  I blamed myself and thought that maybe I wasn't taking care of myself enough.  The therapist I was seeing thought it must have been something that I was doing because he was baffled and couldn't figure it out.  I kept going for years, because it was the best thing I had found to date at that point and the pain when things got bad was too bad to tolerate.  While I am not knocking pain medications, I refuse to go down that road.  By not giving up and being open to trying different therapies and different therapists, I finally found stuff that worked for me.  It was a process of peeling away several layers.  It took many different professionals and many different skill sets.  I was only seeing one or two of them at a time since that can be expensive and the body can only process so much healing at a time.

That is a Reader's Digest version of my story.  Now, I am going to address what issues I have noticed in my experience that I have noticed in many other people with pain.  Not everyone wants it to go away.  Sounds absurd, but it's true.  Not everyone is consciously aware of this.  Our mind can keep us stuck!  I am going to list some of the stuff that therapists notice.

-Referring to yourself as a "hot mess" or seeing yourself as "broken"

-Stating that you have tried everything and that nothing works (nice affirmation there)

-Telling a therapist that you are in a lot of pain and that you wish you could afford them.  Many of the people who have said this to me get pedicures, facials, eat out a lot, etc.  Next time you find yourself telling yourself that you can't afford something, ask yourself if you really want to go.  It's OK if the answer is "no".  If the answer is "no", then why don't you want to get out of pain?  Be honest with yourself.  This is more common than you think. 

-Going to a therapist for so long, that you look forward to it like a social gab fest and would not consider a different therapy or therapist.  I once worked on someone who sees two therapists every single week.  One for over 10 years and one for over 15.  He saw me once and we got great results.  I haven't seen him since.  If you need the same therapy every single week for that many years, it's not working for you.  A good therapist will tell you that and refer you out.

-Always injuring yourself right after a pain treatment.  If this happens to you more than once, pay attention.

-Limiting yourself to what insurance will cover

-Limiting yourself to how far you are willing to drive to see a therapist

-Refusing self care suggestions.

-Refusing referrals.  It often takes more than one set of hands.

-Refusing the treatment suggested by the therapist and insisting on something else that requires no effort on your part at all.  When I used to offer traditional massage, people turned down clinical treatment recommendations all the time stating that they just wanted a massage. 

One of the most common reasons I will see for people not wanting to get better is the need to be "right".  Before I started having new clients book a minimum of 3 sessions up front, I had people coming to me for the purpose of debunking me.  They had their mind made up before calling me that they were only coming once.  The need to be right is very powerful. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Does the Weather Determine How You Feel?

This is a topic that I hear brought up a lot, especially during the winter time.  I have certain types of weather that I prefer over others, but I try to roll with it.  My Mom and Step-Dad live in Texas during the winter time.  Their arthritis is the the point that that is what makes them feel better.  Some people are affected by pressure.  Today is a cloudy, mild day here in Columbus, Ohio.  Many people say they get the blues on days like that.  I will admit that when I go on walks, hikes, etc., I tend to pick sunny days if possible.  But when I do go hiking on days like today, I practically have the whole hiking trail to myself because everyone else is hibernating.  On sunny mild days, good luck even finding a parking spot at the hiking trails.  Today was a work from home day today for me and an exercise rest day as well, so I took advantage of the opportunity to air out the house.  I was grateful to have that opportunity, after my husband was down with the flu last week.

I know many people struggled with just how hot and humid is was this past summer.  Some complained that they couldn't even breathe, therefore, no walks or hikes for them.  I am sensitive to over heating, so instead of always staying indoors in air conditioning, I decided I was going to gently get my body more used to it.  The only air conditioning we have in our townhouse, is a bedroom unit in each bedroom upstairs.  Nothing downstairs.  We used to have a window unit downstairs, but it no longer fits ever since property management put in new windows, so we sold it on Craig's list.  So, downstairs, a fan was it.  We left the upstairs doors open, in order to allow the upstairs air conditioners to circulate.  This is enough to keep the whole place cool when summer temps are not in the 90's.  This summer, it got a little warm.  This summer is also when I decided I was stepping up my workouts.  I was doing some very challenging step aerobics DVDs in front of my fan and taking as many water breaks as I needed.  I had no idea how often you are supposed to stop for water breaks, until I started working out with a professional fitness coach.  She has me stop a lot.  Anyway, everything was fine.  When I was in the mood to hike, I purposely picked well shaded trails.

One winter, when it was constantly below zero and knee deep in snow, I knew I would not get in any outdoor walks or hikes.  I didn't let that get me down.  I did indoor water aerobics and belly dance classes.  I was just as happy as I would have been if I could get outside.

Everyone's body is different in regard to weather.  I prefer the mild temps of spring and fall, however, with extreme temps that are either below zero or over 90 degrees, as long as the temps are consistent from day to day and don't drastically change, my body can adapt to anything.  I eventually got used to the heat enough over the summer to not really care.  Now, if it got mild for a couple of days and then hot again, my body would have to readjust.

When it's not below zero out in the winter, I still try to get in outdoor walks and hikes about once or twice a week.  This keeps me from getting the winter blues, even on cloudy and wet days like today.  Getting outside in all types of weather is how I get my body to adapt, but I make sure that I stay safe and listen to my body.  In the winter, my limit is at least in the 20's, no wind with sun.  If there is wind with no sun, then in the 30's it is.  In the summer, I pick well shaded hiking trails and have a lot of water with me.  Exposure that is safe for me, is how I get my body to adapt to any kind of temperature.  Always staying indoors in heat or air conditioning, gives me the blues.  I like the pinks LOL

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Changes!

We can have self reflection any time of the year that we want.  That is what I usually do.  I am reflecting on some positive health changes that I have made over the past year.  Over a year ago, I met a wonderful fitness coach.  Her name is Jane Stauffer and she owns "The New Lifestyle" in Hilliard, Ohio.  She does one on one coaching, small groups and regular classes.  Meeting Jane has taught me a lot and has really inspired me to continue making positive changes.  The biggest thing that meeting Jane has taught me, is that there are good trainers out there who will watch your form and make sure that you don't do anything that you shouldn't.  I used to have a negative image of all personal trainers being over zealous without regard to proper form.  I thought they all over push their clients to the extreme.  As someone who knows how muscle compensation works, I know what problems this can cause.  Pushing through an exercise after you are already shaking, shuts off muscle function, creating more pain and dysfunction.  I used to be the stubborn type who had my mind made up that I was not letting any trainer work out with me.  Then, I met Jane.  Jane can tell by looking at you, if you are compensating a different muscle other than what she wants you to work.  She can also tell by looking at your body when you are done with certain reps.  And she has you do something different when she can tell you are done.  She really listens to you, too.  When I told her that the neck is one of the most common compensators for the abdominal muscles, she immediately stopped having her clients do crunches.  She still finds equally challenging ways of working out their core, though.  Jane learned from me as well.  Since we get together to exchange services, Jane learned that it can take more than one set of hands to take care of everything that you need.  I knew that Jane needed chiropractic in addition to seeing me.  She kept putting it off.  She kept needing me every single week for months.  One day, I told her she was not leaving my office without calling a chiropractor.  Despite how much fun she is to exchange services with, I do not take advantage of people, either.  Guess who is now on maintenance?  Jane!  That's right!  I am so happy for her.

Now, on to some positive health changes I have made for myself since being inspired by Jane's enthusiasm.  I work out more.  I have also changed the way that I work out.  I realized I wasn't getting everything that I needed from one way of working out.   I was a yoga only person for a while.  I did different styles of yoga in order to make sure I was getting strength, flexibility and cardio.  You can get all of that from yoga.  But traditional strength and cardio are different enough to be a good variety to yoga.  The reason I became a yoga only person, is because it made me feel better.  Traditional workouts used to make my pain worse.  I hear this complaint a lot from others as well.  Jane knows how to not make that happen.  I used to only make time to get in maybe 20-30 minutes of yoga before work.  Now, I make enough time for workouts that are roughly an hour or more before work. It gives me energy to work on clients all day and keeps me in a great place physically, mentally and emotionally so that I can be present for my clients.  I have bought a ton of home exercise videos now that Jane is on maintenance and doesn't need me very often anymore.  I buy my home exercise videos from  The website tells you what equipment you need, whether it's beginner, intermediate or advanced, whether it's high impact, low impact, etc.  and has short videos you can watch before purchasing so you can decide whether or not you like it before buying.  I show Collage love by doing business with them instead of Amazon since I benefit so much from their website.  And the minimum amount that you have to spend to get free shipping is significantly lower than Amazon.  I mix it up between cardio, strength, yoga, hiking, etc.  I feel better.  I have more energy.  I am gaining muscle weight and losing inches.  Jane and I also like to be cute and text each other whenever one of us is out on a walk or a hike.  We send each other a picture of ourselves and say which park we choose to walk or hike at.  And we do it year round.  Jane sells cool gear that keeps me warmer than anything I can find at a store and way cheaper.  These texts back and forth inspires me to get in more outdoor walks and hikes.  Jane has a dog, so no matter where I am at or what I am doing, she is always at a park with her dog, Squirt.  Squirt is a ham and sometimes likes to workout with us LOL  My advice to folks who have worse pain when they workout is to find a good trainer.  If the hourly rates are too high for you, ask them if you can split the time up with others as a small group class.  I know Jane allows that.  DO NOT to every single workout on your own!  I learned the hard way.  And make sure it is a good trainer who went to school to do what they do.  Many massage therapists who are also trainers, took the personal trainer exam without any education behind it.  There is nothing wrong with being a massage therapist and a personal trainer as long as they have a solid education in both and some of them do.  Do your homework!  Group classes are great and inexpensive, but the instructor can't notice everything in a large group class. 

I have also noticed that I don't get sick as often as I used to.  And when I do, I am not down long at all.  I am from Michigan originally.  In Michigan, people are out year round.  Down here in Columbus, folks like to hibernate in the winter.  When I lived in Michigan, I didn't notice people getting sick the way that they do in Columbus.  Michigan people rarely got sick and when they did, they were only down for a day or two.  In Columbus, I constantly see people post on Facebook that they are now day 10 of not feeling any better, etc.  This realization is why I try to get in an outdoor walk or hike about once or twice a week.  I don't get seasonal affective disorder anymore since I have started doing this.  I never even heard of seasonal affective disorder before moving to Ohio.

If you want to get in contact with Jane: