Lucy has been coming to our clinic for some time.
She is a regular in our group sessions, (often attending first thing in the early morning!) and has largely found exercise very effective in helping her manage her various aches and pains, on top of noticing positive changes to mood, fitness and posture.
A recent flare up of her chronic neck pain has got Lucy in a bit of a funk.
It now seems harder to will herself to get up for her early morning exercise sessions...
She feels sluggish...
She has started reducing how many chores she does around the house...
Most things just feel harder than before. And despite trying to do less, she feels MORE fatigued.
It may seem obvious, but we know that pain is one of the best de-motivators around. It's a pretty normal reaction to reduce your daily activity and movement when you are in pain.
Why, you ask?
In essence, pain is a response produced by the brain when it perceives danger. It's worth appreciating that pain is our body's most powerful protective mechanism. As a result, even the most motivated amongst us can find it difficult to keep pushing/exercising/studying/juggling when we are in pain. It can wear us down, and generally makes life feel that bit harder as our focus shifts from our daily activities to trying to cope with and get rid of pain.
Our brains are also wired in a particular way to try and keep us as comfortable as possible! We are creatures which crave comfort in temperature, position and effort as much as we can. We reach for blankets when cold, protect ourselves from the rain, and reach for food when we are hungry. Not many of us deliberately participate in activities which we know will be painful, and often find it hard to watch others enduring painful experiences.
So back to Lucy.
If Lucy believes that her neck is going to experience a greater level of discomfort after attending an exercise class, then it becomes an obvious choice to give the session a miss. Although taking a few sessions break from exercise would be not be an issue, what do you think would happen if her neck pain lingers for more than a week or two? Those feelings of sluggishness, fatigue and frustration are likely to stick around . Exercise can easily become a thing of the past, muscles get weaker and Lucy just gets used to this new "normal".
As a team of Allied Health professionals, this downward spiral is what we try to reduce as much as possible when working with our clients.
Knowing pain, and appreciating how it can impact your actions and behaviours is an essential part of managing any chronic injury or health condition. In the clinic, we often spend some time explaining to our clients how pain works, and that there are a number of different strategies which can be implemented to make a good recovery.
If you feel that your pain is significantly reducing your motivation to exercise, work or just live your life in the manner you would like, then reach out! Remember you are not alone, and there are a number of approaches that can be trialled to help you regain control over your pain and ultimately your life.