All Exercise Is Not Equal

Calgary Massage Therapist Corrective Exercise Massage Therapy Article

Hi there! I’ve been MIA from FB for awhile. Claudia and I have been working around the clock (almost!) to get the new clinic out together and open on schedule.

We opened the doors on Monday, October 30th, 2017, and it’s been great! There is a lot of fine tuning that needs to take place, but everyone seems happy and excited with the new space.

I just pulled an all-nighter to get caught up on exercise prescriptions, referral letters and miscellaneous correspondence that’s been piling up, but felt compelled to write a tiny post here to share an experience I had recently.

In spite of us being here in this hyper-connected, Googlefied world of information abundance in 2017, most people still badly misunderstand why they end up in pain, missing out on activities they love.

This is my biggest challenge as a healthcare provider. Not actually providing appropriate care, but helping people to understand their problems.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

– Mark Twain

The list of common misconceptions regarding pain problems is as long ad your arm, but here is the one I’ve wrestled with lately:

EXERCISE WILL MAKE IT BETTER

Like many misconceptions, there is a grain of truth underneath which is the source of the misunderstanding. Not all exercise is equal. Where did we get this idea that a brisk walk is the grease that’ll keep your engine running? It’s the exercise version of “an apple day keeps the doctor away”. Walking may be a very healthy practice for your heart and lungs but it’s usefulness as a remedy for mechanical back (hip, knee, ankle, etc…) pain is limited to say the least. Let’s use an automotive analogy. Will a Sunday drive eliminate a wheel alignment problem? A flat tire? No and no. Walking won’t straighten you out either.

A slightly more sophisticated illusion is that going to the gym will cure all your aches and pains. This usually goes one of two ways. The person works very hard and makes impressive progress in terms of fitness and symptoms, then one day a few months later an acute injury lands him/her in a bigger mess than they started with. The other common version is that the person is able to use their gym practice as a symptom control activity, as long as they avoid this and/or that exercise. There are worse fates, of course, but this person has simply managed to find a path around disaster, unknowingly choosing instead a knee, hip or back surgery a few years down the line.

Here is an email I wrote to a patient who was disappointed when her postural alignment didn’t improve despite her stopping the practice of her corrective exercise prescription in favour of fitness training:

Like I suspected, dropping the corrective exercise was better for your time management-self, but not for your biomechanical health-self. Although disappointing it’s obviously not the end of the world. Your fitness goals took precedence and there’s nothing wrong with that. Congratulations, by the way. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way. When you get to a “maintenance” phase of that process you can get back to straightening your skeleton. Expecting fitness exercises to simultaneously correct alignment problems is like hoping your clothes fit better after coming out of the dryer. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just unlikely.

This is a smart person. These misunderstandings are not due to a lack of intelligence. It’s exactly the apparent simplicity of exercise that misleads. Another expression of this lack of understanding is the belief that yoga or Pilates are the holy grail of postural re-education. Claudia actually had a yoga instructor tell her that she wasn’t going to practice my corrective exercise prescription because she was already doing ten hours of yoga a day. If yoga was a panacea wouldn’t people who practice it be biomechanically perfect and pain-free? I have had many yoga instructors as patients over the years. While they offer better opportunities for postural training than walking or weightlifting, you still need constant supervision, coaching and program modification to make postural headway with yoga or Pilates. Without an awareness of alignment and a preoccupation with minimizing malalignment any exercise intended to “fix” your body will yield disappointing results, to say the least!

Need help? Call Shannon at the new clinic and we’ll see if you’re a good fit for our system of care. We offer you a free 30 minute Discovery Session to find out about you and your challenges.

Yours in health,

Geoff Dakin BPE RMT

Calgary Registered Massage Therapist

Geoff Dakin

Geoff Dakin

Registered Massage Therapist at Dakin Rehab
Geoff is a Registered Massage Therapist in Calgary who has been working in the acute injury/chronic pain treatment and athletic training field since 1989. He has 7 years of college and university training as well as countless hours of post-graduate continuing education. In 1991/92 Geoff worked and travelled in the NHL as a member of the training staff of the Vancouver Canucks.
Geoff Dakin

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