Anyone with long term pain will likely relate with this statement my sister recently made about her chronic back pain and exercise:
"Yeah, the pain flare ups seem to be less frequent with exercise. But also feels hard to convince myself to exercise, because if I stretch too far it hurts real bad, too??"
This situation is so common with people I see every day in the clinic. The pain has been there for a long time, but thinking on times that they've been most physically active, that tends to be the times that the pain has been its least intense, frequent and invasive.
So if we know that staying active can change the intensity, frequency and overall impact pain has on our lives, why is it so hard to convince ourselves to do the exercises? Its an internal fight that a lot of people have with themselves.
In practitioner language we call it Fear-Avoidance Behaviours, which basically means not doing the beneficial thing because of the fear of causing pain even if you know long term the beneficial thing reduces the pain intensity and/or frequency. It’s one of the biggest struggles for people with chronic pain.
I think a lot of the solution to it is finding a really enjoyable activity. In my sisters situation, she started taking MMA classes last year. A weird choice for someone who is already in pain, right? But even though shes learning some serious fighting moves and coming away with some proper bruises, her long term back pain has been more under control than it had been in ages.
I explained it to her like this.
"You’re not there to slug away at a pointless activity that you don’t enjoy. You have fun, you learn, it’s interactive, the people are nice and supportive, it’s social, it’s not 100% competitive, you get to do it as a family activity with Matt and the kids. So it’s probably so much more appealing than going for a run or going to lift weights at a gym by yourself for an hour a few days a week."
And I think she got it!
"Absolutely! Ohh that all makes so much sense... it's so true though. Going to the regular gym or even working out at home is like... ugh. No thanks. But going to MMA is so easy?! Because it's just fun... I mean, it's actually a really complicated work out, and some of it SUCKS... but is somehow so damn fun?!"
While she's having all this fun kicking and punching, she'll definitely be using a lot of back muscles to coordinate and control the movements, and core muscles, hip stabilisers, all the areas that single exercise prescription focuses on. The difference is instead of doing separate specific exercises for each muscle group, it’s all just rolled into a sequence of movements and blows and dodges, mixed in with an instructor that makes her laugh and being able to spar with her partner. This is way more enjoyable for her than doing strict sets and reps of isolated exercises.
Some people love doing the specific exercises, and guess what, thats awesome too because if you love it and enjoy it, you're more likely to do it!
Lets talk neuroscience
We already know that almost any kind of exercise produces endorphins, which are these wonderful little brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that are natural pain and stress relievers.
Endorphins act a little differently on the Peripheral Nervous System (all the nerves in your body that aren't part of your brain or spinal cord) and the Central Nervous System (the brain and spinal cord)
They work by binding to opioid receptors in the Peripheral Nervous System. Its like your own personal stash of codeine, and your body makes it in response to exercise! They also work by reducing the amount of inflammatory chemicals that the nerve produces.
In the Central Nervous System, endorphins also bind to the opioid receptors. Here their effect is to reduce another neurotransmitter called GABA. With GABA reduced, your brain is able to produce more dopamine - the pleasure neurotransmitter! Interestingly, these opioid receptors in the brain are most abundant in regions of the brain that control pain regulation.
So how is it more helpful to have a fun active hobby?
Researchers found that endorphin release varies depending on the intensity of the activity, suggesting that higher physical intensity leads to increased endorphins compared to more moderate activity.
But is the endorphin rush better from a fun activity vs an activity that you find boring or tedious?
I'm honestly not sure, but what I do believe with certainty is that most people are way more likely to actually DO the exercise if its something they find fun and enjoyable and actually have a desire to do it.
Realistically, it probably doesn't matter WHAT you do, more that you just DO IT!
Have you ever found that gentle movement such as yoga helped to alleviate your symptoms, but you struggle to go to a regular class?
Here at Simple Wellness Myotherapy, we know how good moving your body can be - for your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments, as well as your nervous system and your mind! But we also know that it can be tough to get to a class when you're feeling sore or brain-foggy.
That's why we sat down with Erica Webb, a Yoga, Mat Pilates and Somatic Exercise Coach for a chat. If you're looking to incorporate movement in the comfort of your own home, her Mindful Movement Virtual Studio might be for you.
Hi Erica! Thanks for joining us.
Could you start off by telling us a little about yourself and the Mindful Movement Virtual Studio?
Thanks guys! I’m a Yoga, Mat Pilates and Somatic Exercise Coach based in Melbourne, Australia.
As well as a mindful movement coach, I am a mother to two young boys and a writer and illustrator. At my core I'm curious, kind, committed and just the right amount of quirky!
I truly believe that movement is powerful. Mindful movement is more powerful still. That’s why I created The Mindful Movement Virtual Studio.
The Mindful Movement Virtual Studio is an online Yoga, Pilates and Somatic Exercise Studio. It allows you to do your movement practice from anywhere, anytime.
But it’s more than just a library of classes. It’s also a space where you’re supported! We talk about mindset, forming habits and other practical elements that make a home practice do-able and sustainable.
As part of the Studio, we also offer live masterclasses, weekly Q&As and more.
Who is this Virtual Studio for?
People who want to feel better in their own bodies! Many of my clients are busy women who want to feel better and know they need to commit to look after themselves and take responsibility.
It’s also for people who simply don’t get the chance to go to a local yoga class. It might be that you’re juggling around kids, or that you have pain or a condition that makes it difficult for you to make a regular class.
Is there anyone who wouldn’t benefit from this service?
I can really only think of two:
Does someone need to have experience with yoga to benefit from the Virtual Studio?
Not at all! Many people who join are brand-new to yoga. But for those who do know their yoga, it’s beneficial because we use a lot of techniques and poses that aren’t commonly used in the average yoga class.
Do we need to commit a lot of time to see the benefits?
No! Most of the classes are 30 minutes or less. There are some that are only 5 minutes, and some go up to an hour. So it’s more about committing little chunks of time on a regular basis, rather than committing to a dozen hours every single week.
Do we need to be skinny, super fit, bendy or decked out in the latest activewear to do these classes?
Firstly: you can rock up in your PJs if you want to!
Secondly, these classes are designed to be inclusive – you can be whatever size, fitness level and flexibility level and still reap the benefits.
Do we need fancy equipment?
A few of the classes incorporate props, but there are always at-home alternatives you can use. Many people use pillows and blankets as their props! However, you can always filter the classes to find a prop-free video if you need.
Are the classes appropriate for people who have pain or ongoing injuries?
If you have a condition or injury that might impact your ability to engage in physical activity, I always recommend getting clearance from your health professional first.
With that in mind, the majority of classes are gentle and have variations to suit almost any issue. For example, some of the classes can be done while seated.
Some of the more advanced classes may not suit for some types of injury or pain that affect the function of your muscles. If you’re unsure, you’re welcome to contact me directly about a specific class and whether it’s right for you.
What if we need a little extra support with anything?
I’m here to help! I make sure that I’m available for people to ask questions. Feel free to reach out if you need anything.
Ok, you’ve got us: how do we sign up?
If you’re ready to prioritise YOU, make time to move well and feel well, head to this link to join! The doors are open until Sunday 15th March.
As we get into the swing of the new year, many people will make a resolution to get fit. But if you go about this the wrong way, it can end in an injury that puts you on the sidelines for weeks or even months.
Exercise is amazing for your body and your mind. It boosts mental wellbeing, helps you to manage pain and over the long-term can protect you against injury.
So how can you get back into a fitness regime without hurting yourself? Here are our top tips to minimise your chance of injury.
Start small – even if you used to be a master!
We know from experience that it’s really tempting to go back to doing what you have done in the past. After all, running that fast, lifting those weights or doing Pilates 5 days a week used to be easy!
But whether you’ve been away from exercise because of injury, pregnancy or just that life got on top of you, this is the most common mistake people make.
Over time, your muscles will become less conditioned. If you go back to your old regime, it may be too stressful on your body and lead to an injury.
So don’t just jump in where you were. Instead, go back to the start. Your body will start to remember if you give it time to warm back up to exercise.
Increase your frequency and intensity with time
This goes hand in hand with the first point. It takes time for the body to get back into the swing of things. So give yourself at least a couple of months to get back to where you were before you stopped.
For example, let’s say you used to run 10km 5 times per week. You’ve just had a break for several months due to a new job that took up your time. To get back into it, you might want to pace yourself by doing:
2km gentle jog x 2 for the first week to assess your fitness
5km gentle jog x 2 for 2 weeks
5km run x 3 for 2 weeks
7.5km run x 3 for 2 weeks
7.5km run x 4 for 2 weeks
10km run x 3 for 2 weeks
If you’re feeling good and have had no injuries or flare-ups, then progress back to your 5 x 10km runs.
As you can see, this progression takes 10-12 weeks to get back to your original program. It may take longer if you’ve been off exercise for a longer period of time or had a significant injury. But it will pay off in the long run if you pace yourself!
Make sure you’re getting good nutrition and plenty of sleep
Exercise recovery starts from the moment you stop exercising. There are a lot of factors that contribute to recovery, but nutrition and sleep are two of the most important. Our bodies use nutrients to heal and grow muscles, and most of this healing takes place as we sleep.
For nutrition, our nutritionist buddy Samantha Gemmell recommends eating plenty of wholefoods for a good mix of protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support recovery.
When it comes to sleep, Sam says that quality is just as important as quantity. Make sure that your room is completely dark, avoid caffeine after 3pm and minimise your screen time for 30 minutes before bedtime.
Do some gentle stretches after your workout
Exercise is great for your body, but it can lead to muscle tension. Muscle tension can put you at risk of injury. So how do you minimise that risk? One way is to stretch out after a workout.
This doesn’t have to be anything too extensive. If you’ve gone for a run, do some gentle stretching of your legs and hips. If it’s upper body day at the gym, stretch out your shoulders and upper back. 1-2 minutes of stretching after each workout can add up!
Give your body some TLC
Sometimes stretching isn’t enough, and your muscles need a little extra TLC. Many people will get a relaxation massage or remedial massage, but this only addresses one aspect of the muscle tension.
That’s where myotherapy comes in. Myotherapy incorporates massage with other techniques such as dry cupping, needling, trigger point therapy and taping. This combination can be helpful for not only treating exercise-related injury but also preventing it.
Your myotherapist can also assess your muscles and joints to see if any are at significant risk of injury and prescribe exercises to strengthen those areas.
Want to show your body that TLC and reduce your risk of injury? Book in with one of our friendly myotherapists here.
When we make New Years Resolutions, we usually focus on what we want. We want to be fitter, thinner, better organised and able to give up bad habits. But have you ever wondered what resolutions your body might like you to make?
Our head myotherapist and resident body-whisperer Mel has 5 resolutions that your body is begging you to make this year.
Move more throughout the day
Our bodies were not designed to sit at desks for hours every day. They were designed to move constantly in a variety of different ways.
Unfortunately, most of us can’t change jobs just to suit the body’s preferences! But you can find little ways to move more frequently throughout your day.
For example, you could:
When you get up and change position regularly, your body will thank you. Regular movement can also reduce the risk of injury and pain that can occur when you’re physically inactive.
Stretch out regularly
Another important way that your body loves to move is with a good stretch! But when we sit for hours at a time, our muscles can tighten up and leave us feeling sore.
So whether it’s at work, at home or even at the gym, find a way to incorporate a regular stretch. Make sure that you stretch until you can feel the muscle stretching out. But don’t go too far – pushing a stretch too deep too quick can lead to injury.
If you do feel any sharp pain while stretching, you might have just stretched too far. But you might have an underlying injury that needs to be checked by your myotherapist.
Focus on good quality sleep
Our bodies do their best healing work as we sleep every night. So if you’re not getting enough deep and restful sleep, your body can’t maintain itself properly.
A good rest isn’t just about how many hours you sleep. It’s also important to get quality rest, so your body can go into healing mode.
Sleep is particularly important if you experience chronic pain. A poor night of sleep can worsen your pain the following day. But this goes both ways – worse pain during the day can impact on your sleep that night.
Find a healthy way to manage your stress
A lot of the less healthy choices we make can come back to stress. How we eat, move our bodies and unwind in our spare time often reflects how we deal with stress.
But on the flip side, these factors can also make a big difference with how we manage stress. That's why it's a good idea to find a healthy way to manage your stress.
There are plenty of options out there, including:
Take a proactive approach for body care
When it comes to our health, most of us wait until something goes wrong before we actually do anything about it! But if we can switch to a more proactive approach to taking care of our bodies, we can get onto issues early or even prevent them.
Book yourself in for a check-up with your GP, dentist, optometrist and any specialists you see regularly.
When it comes to your muscles and joints, the team at Simple Wellness Myotherapy are here to help. To book in for a tune-up your body would approve of, head to our booking page here.
If you work at a desk for hours on end, you know that it can be uncomfortable at the best of times. Office workers have just as much risk of injury and chronic pain as other more physically strenuous occupations. You may be at risk of issues including back pain, neck pain, repetitive strain injury or RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome.
So how can you minimise your chance of hurting yourself and stay at the top of your game? Our myotherapist Emily shares some of her tips for staying healthy and preventing pain and injury for office workers.
When you’re focused on your work, you often forget to shift position. Unfortunately, our bodies weren’t designed to stay in a position for hours at a time. That’s why the simplest tip is to stretch whenever you feel stiff, sore or fatigued.
Stretching can also help to boost blood flow to the brain, which means you are more focused and productive.
You can simply stretch at your desk if needed – stretch out your neck, shoulders and back, and do some circles with your ankles. But you can also do a standing stretch, which brings us to our next tip.
Set yourself reminders to move
Small amounts of movement throughout the day add up when it comes to preventing office injuries. But when you’re in the zone, you might forget! That’s why it’s useful to set yourself a reminder or alarm on your phone or computer.
Aim for at least 1-2 minutes per hour of movement. This might be standing and stretching, going and getting a glass of water, making yourself a coffee or tea, going to the toilet or just walking around the office to get your muscles and joints moving.
Give a sit/stand desk a try
Desks that can alternate between a seated and standing position have become popular recently. They allow you the best of both worlds – you can sit for a bit, then switch to standing as a break from sitting.
Have a chat to your employer about whether you can trial a sit-stand desk. The good thing is that many people find sit-stand desks boost productivity, so employers are often open to them.
If you work for yourself or you are the boss, you can hire sit-stand desks and other equipment before purchasing.
Make the most of lunchtime
It can be tempting to eat lunch at your desk and power through the to-dos. But your lunch and break times are an opportunity to move around and give your muscles and joints a break as well.
Get up and get moving. Head to a local park to have your lunch if it’s sunny outside. Grab a coffee from the café around the corner. You can even go for a brisk 5-minute walk around the block at the end of your break to wake up your brain and your body. That way, you’ll go back to work feeling refreshed.
Get moving before or after work
Some days you won’t get much time to move at work, so make the most of the hours outside of work. Find a way to get your body moving on a regular basis.
This doesn’t mean you need to slog away at the gym for an hour every day. You can do some yoga stretches at home, walk the dog or go to the playground with your kids.
If you do find yourself too tired to move after work, try getting up 15 minutes earlier and go for a walk around the block before work. It seems counter-intuitive, but exercise actually boosts your energy and relieves fatigue. Even a little bit each day will add up!
Get a regular remedial massage or myotherapy treatment
Your muscles and joints need care, just like every other part of you. That’s why regular treatments can help to prevent injury and pain.
Our desk worker clients find that a treatment every 2-6 weeks helps to relieve tension and pain. Many report that they have fewer headaches, lower stress levels, improved sleep and mood and greater movement in joints and muscles. So if any of those are on your wish list, regular massage and myotherapy might be the answer!
Is regular massage or myotherapy on your to-do list? Our myotherapist Emily is currently open for new clients. You can book with a session with her here.
Anytime Fitness in Ferntree Gully are having a one day sale on Wednesday 21st August, and they've invited us along to talk to you about Myotherapy and how it can help with your training or recovering from an injury.
We'll be there from 5-7pm, and have some Myo vouchers to give away, as well as bringing some of the tools of the trade for you to see. Of course, Perry will be trying his best to get a work out in as well!
If you've been considering joining a gym, I can highly recommend Anytime Fitness. I go there myself and always find the place clean and neat, the staff are friendly and helpful, the personal trainers are happy to help you figure out how to use the equipment and they offer a selection of group classes that are free as part of your membership.
We know that it’s good to move our bodies on a daily basis. But when we get injured, it’s a good excuse to chuck in the towel for a few weeks– right?
Wrong! Exercise or at least some type of movement is an important part of your recovery process. Although it might not be good to go for a run 2 hours after you break your ankle (ouch!), you do want to incorporate movement as your body heals.
Let’s look at why exercise is so beneficial, and how to include it safely.
What are some of the general benefits of exercise?
So first up – why do we want to exercise on a regular basis? I’m glad you asked! There are so many benefits to exercise for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Some of them include:
Exercise, injury and pain
The old-school approach to pain was all about rest and inactivity. But now we know that movement done correctly is one of the best things you can do for pain.
When it comes to pain and injury, research has shown that exercise can:
But there are also the indirect benefits. For example, exercise improves sleep, which is when your body does its best healing. If you’re not sleeping well, it will take you longer to heal. But if you use exercise to improve your sleep, it can boost your recovery.
How to exercise safely after an injury
Convinced that you need to move that body? Let’s go about this with safety in mind. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Start slow. After an injury, there are a lot of complex processes going on. So the last thing your body needs is for you to try and run a marathon while it’s still healing! Begin with gentle movements, and work your way up over a period of weeks until you’re back to your pre-injury levels.
Use your non-painful joints. If you have an injured upper body, use your lower body for exercising. If you’ve got an injured lower body, do some upper body exercises. Endorphins don’t stay in the one place – they are systemic. So if you’re moving non-sore parts, the endorphins will make their way around your body to the sore parts to help relieve the pain.
Get a proper rehab program prescribed. This might not be necessary if you’ve only rolled your ankle or stubbed your toe. But if you have had a significant injury or are in significant pain, it’s best to get help. As a myotherapist, I can prescribe rehab exercises that build your body’s strength back up, and adapt exercises that might be causing pain. Your exercises will change throughout our treatment plan - we start from light, easy exercises while the pain or injury is acute, and work up to more challenging exercises to rebuild strength when your body is ready for it.
Ready to book in a session? Head to the booking page here.
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully.