For the beginning of what I hope to be both a fun and informative blog site, I want to talk a little bit about one of the questions that I get the most often, and really it’s two questions. Whether it’s in the clinic, talking to people on the phone, or even talking to family members who found out that I’m a physical therapist and might know a thing or two about feeling more fit, healthy, and independent on a regular basis, it’s a question that people think will get them back in the game with without a ton of effort. Not necessarily that they’re not going to try and get better, but it’s something that they would like to try to figure out on their own and something that they want to understand from a DIY (Do It Yourself) perspective.
If you look at anything nowadays, everything is DIY. The home improvement network is blowing up with all the new home improvement things that you can do, the gym experience is more and more coming to you at home through online coaching, and YouTube/Google are revolutionizing the way we approach problem solving. So it stands to reason that even now with rehab, people would like to know how to make themselves feel healthy by themselves so they don’t need to go and wait in the clinic lines and do all the things that people hate that they associate with going and seeing a medical professional. Look, I get it. At the end of the day, that’s not how we want to spend our time. That’s not where we want to spend our hard earned cash. You’d rather be feeling healthy and figuring it out on your own. And so this question I believe stems from that.
So this number one question that people are asking me is: what exercises or stretches do I do for ______ pain? And the reason I use ______ pain is because everybody has something a little bit different. Maybe it’s back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, you get the picture. I spend a lot of my time with gym owners and my biggest question to them is, what is the number one question that you guys get about rehab/pain? And most of them say the same thing, which is what do you do about when I have pain here or what do I do when I have pain here? What stretches, what exercises? Because that’s what people have been led to believe will get you better, is that there’s a stretch or an exercise out there for everybody. If you strengthen a certain tiny little muscle, then all of a sudden you’re going to get better. Right?
To piggyback off of that question, probably the secondary (but similar) most common question people ask me is: what’s the best treatment for this? “ I’m going to go get treatment then what’s the best thing for it? Is it massage? Is it the myofascial release? Do I need cupping? (cause that looked really cool and Michael Phelps in the Olympics) Do I need dry needling? I hear a lot of good things about that. What do I need?”
And the response that I give every time to both of those questions is: you’re asking the wrong questions. And that’s not a way for me to skirt around the actual question. It’s just the wrong question. Here’s a similar experience I want to give you guys and see if you follow my logic…
If your check engine light came on in your car, your truck, whatever you’re driving, you would not go into an auto mechanic and say: “Hey, my check engine light is on and I’m headed to the hardware store, what do I need to buy two to fix my car? If you did, the mechanic would look at you like you were crazy… “I don’t know!? I have to look at it first, you’ll have to drop it off so I can check why the light came on.” That’s what pain is to your body, it’s your check engine light. It’s still impossible for me, or for that matter any movement expert, to tell you what to do when all we have to go on is: my knee hurts when I run, and if you’re getting advice based off of that amount of history from any medical professional, you need to turn around and walk the other way because there is no way anyone can tell you what to do on that info alone. We need to find out whether it’s mobility, whether it’s stability, strength, weakness, what-have-you.
In terms of the what treatment helps you feel better, again, you’re asking what treatment is going to make me feel good, but not what is going to solve my problem. If your objective is to feel better, there are a million different ways to do that and there are so many people out there, massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, the list goes on and on, there’s so many people that can make you feel better, but the problem is you’re only going to feel better for a short amount of time, and then the pain is right back at you. Right? How many of us have gone somewhere and gotten adjustment or had a massage and gone, oh my gosh, I feel so much better. Maybe even for a week later you just feel great and then slowly but surely it starts to creep back on you.
Well, that’s because nobody approached your issue from the movement side of things. It likely has nothing to do with getting you stronger in certain areas. For the most part, it’s patterning out the right movements so that your brain starts firing off movement sequences correctly.
So when you’re asking what feels better or what should I go get the dry needling, the cupping, k tape, or whatever else, if you’re looking to just be out of pain and nothing else, take your pick! Most of them are great. You wouldn’t see them show up in the Olympics if they didn’t work for at least somebody, but those are not solutions to the problem. Those are quick fixes. You see the cup marks on the athletes but you don’t see what goes on in the rehab gym, where that person is working on correcting a MOVEMENT, and not concerning him/herself with the quickest way to get out of pain. Don’t get me wrong, pain relieving techniques are highly valuable because you have to be out of pain to progress, but you cannot rely on just one of those things and expect your problem to go away. So if you’re looking for a solution to your problem, and not just pain relief, then you should go to somebody who’s actually going to treat you from a movement perspective and try to improve your movement quality.
If you’re just looking to be out of pain as quickly as possible and that’s it, then you need to go ahead and accept the fact that you’re going to be spending a lot of money going to somebody who’s going to see you two or three times a week to do an adjustment, massage, needle, laser, or whatever, and you’ll feel good after, but you’ll need it again a couple of days later. Or, you’ll be popping pills just to get through the days where you aren’t being treated.
P.S. If you’re having trouble staying active because of pain, you’re tired of people suggesting it’s your age or “just part of being active,” then please click here to download your FREE copy of my E-book Pain and Injury Myths That are Keeping You Out of the Gym and Off the Field which includes a slew of actionable steps you can take to continue being active without pain. Click here to download your FREE report now.