Mar 20 2015

The Fear Factor: The Anticipation of Pain in Movement

The Fear Factor.jpg 
As we move through life, we rarely think of the hundreds of coordinated movements that our body makes each day, let alone how they feel. When a person is in pain however, every movement can bring on a number of feelings, both emotional and physical. When pain persists over a long period, the mere thought of moving can be paralyzing with fear.

The fear reaction immediately sets off a chain reaction of bracing and tension throughout your entire body. The pace of your breath becomes shallow and high in the chest. Your pulse quickens as your heart pounds. Now try to move freely throughout your day. Impossible!

Managing this fear is just as important as rehabilitating the injury. However, unfortunately, this "symptom" often goes unrecognized or is dismissed. ‎Trying to fix the body without addressing the mind's role can result in a much longer recovery. This fear response is called Anticipatory Pain, and it is brought on when our brain's memory of pain  triggers a very real physiological pain each time we move.

From a movement perspective, there are a number of ways to manage this fear. Here are just a few:
1) Breathe before Moving - inhale for 4 counts, hold for 2 counts, exhale slowly for 8 counts. Repeat this 10 times during times of fear when moving. Once you feel more relaxed, start to move on your exhale.
2) Release then Move – Before you move, take your time to feel relaxed and free of tension, then use the idea of floating a limb to lift it, or loosely swinging in the breeze to move it forward and back.
3) Ask for a Helping Hand - Have someone assist you in movement. While you ‎focus on relaxing areas of tension, have that person support the moving part, like while lifting a leg or an arm. After a few repetitions of relaxed movement, start to assist your partner so each of you is doing 50% of the work, then try doing 80% of the effort with just 20% of support. Finally, once you feel confident in the movement, try the movement on your own with your support person on standby.
4) Support Yourself - Use supportive props to cushion areas that tend to hold tension, like in the low back when lying flat and moving your limbs. ‎This support could be a towel or even your hand. As you move, use that prop as support and as a tactile reminder to avoid tensing that area during the movement.

Finally, when you are ready to start an exercise program, look for one that teaches you exercise with a purpose. Programs with a Functional Movement component can be very helpful by showing you how to recreate movements that you will use in your everyday life, while also reprogramming your brain to move confidently without triggering a pain response.

A highly-trained Pilates and Therapeutic Exercise specialist can help develop a functional program that suits your needs, and gets you back to moving with confidence. Call ReActive to book a session with an experienced Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist!

Written by Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist
ReActive, LLC     510-990-1364

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ReActive Practitioners have extensive training and experience working with many structural and functional conditions, including...

  • Posture/Gait Imbalances
  • Hip Instability/Mobility Issues including pre-/post-operative care for hip scope and replacement
  • Shoulder Instability/Mobility Issues including frozen shoulder, rotator cuff imbalances/injuries, pre-/post-operative care for shoulder replacement
  • Spine Issues (Spinal Stenosis, pre- & post-operative care for discectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion, DDD, ankylosing spondylitis, spondylolisthesis, disc bulges/herniations – Post-rehab)
  • Knee Instability/Mobility Issues including Patellar Femoral Syndrome, pre-/post-operative care for knee scope and replacement
  • Scoliosis – Functional & Structural
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteopenia/Osteoporosis
  • Pre- & Post-natal including diastasis recti, C-Section, SIJ pain/pelvic instability and dysfunction
  • Low, Mid- & Upper back pain (incl Core Stabilization/Muscle Recruitment issues)
  • Muscular Recruitment/Patterning Issues including habitual compensations, faulty recruitment/patterns
  • Chronic conditions – Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, chronic pain syndromes, MS, etc
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Standing & Walking stability issues including balance issues, leg discrepancy, neurological disorders (ie stroke)
  • Functional Movement Issues (ie difficulty performing movements of everyday life ie sit-stand, bending, lifting, pushing, pulling, managing stairs, etc)
  • Sport-Specific Training (golf, tennis, cycling, climbing, swimming, running, education for safer and more effective gym training, etc)
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