Being injured is frustrating. Going to physio or massage therapy over and over without getting back to the things you love to do can feel like an endless cycle. Having the same injury come back time and time again or never really go back to normal can feel like your body is conspiring against you.
I was there. I kept injuring my lower back over and over. No matter what I did it didn’t stop the cycle. Physio, massage, chiropractic, stretches, 3 styles of yoga, pilates, you name it. Until I discovered that my pelvis was out of alignment and every time I moved it in a certain way my back muscles, already at the end of their rope, gave way.
Worrying about my back was distracting. The worry prevented me from fully participating in the activities I enjoyed and I never knew what innocent movement might reinjury it. It was no way to live.
One evening, laid up on the couch yet again, out of sheer boredom I went online and stumbled across movement therapy. That’s when I learned that my out-of-whack pelvis wasn’t my fault. It was my body’s response to cope with the effects of scars in my torso from a surgery I had 2 decades ago. Finally I had an answer and a plan to make lasting changes.
Movement therapy is different from what I’d encountered in standard health care. Most medical professionals focus on the part that hurts rather than sorting out why that part hurts in the first place. It’s satisfying for patients to see a medical professional and have them work directly on the part that hurts and send you home hurting less.
Movement therapists, however, are trained to see what other health care professionals aren’t. Movement therapy takes a systems-approach looking at the movement of the ENTIRE body, not just the part that hurts, and identifying which parts are out of sync and reintroducing movement.
Practitioners work together with the client and their injury history to find out why they are moving the way they are and provide their body with more options to move that resolves pain. The practitioner isn’t ‘fixing’ the client. Instead, by reintroducing range of motion, the client’s body decides how much of that rediscovered range of motion to start using. In science jargon this is called neuroplasticity.
Once you try movement therapy you discover that no other practitioner is going to spend the time to look at every one of your 206 bones and all of their joints to see how they’re moving. No other practitioner is trained to understand how every joint is moving in three dimensions to end up causing you pain and how to unwind those patterns.
When I discovered movement therapy it seemed like some kind of voodoo. But I discovered that my torso scars changed how my torso moved, which impacted my pelvis and even changed how my feet were functioning. Surely moving seemingly distant parts of my body in a new way couldn’t have an impact on my recurring back pain. But boy was I wrong.
If a part isn’t moving it’s putting strain on the whole body, everything connected to it and even things further away. Just like an elaborate domino setup. Moving a domino beside you moves all the dominos in between and eventually knocks over that domino on the far end of the room. They’re all connected and they need to work together one after the other to cause that far domino to fall.
Improving my torso movement and my foot movement meant I was able to resolve my back pain and fully participate in the activities I was hesitant to give 100% to in the past.
Working with a movement therapist takes about an hour once a week. In the first visit the therapist will do a full injury history, assess your posture and get you to move individual joints one by one. They will come up with an overall picture of how well you are moving those joints and then develop a strategy with you to restore that movement. Clients will go home with exercises to maintain their corrections in between sessions. Typically a client will need 4-6 sessions with about 3 maintenance sessions to address one injury.
The overall goal for the therapist is to give the client all the tools they need to gain body awareness of the movements that cause their injury, give them strategies to recognize their early symptoms and exercises they can do to prevent recurrence. By the end of the treatments the client leaves with the tools they need to no longer require the help of the therapist.
For me it means being over 4 years injury free. I have gained much more body awareness and the knowledge to be a more informed consumer of my health care dollars.