Pain from Injury, Activity, and Aging

Our bodies use pain to tell us there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Pain can come from things like repetitive motion, poor posture, highly active lifestyles, and accidental injuries. It can be a short term issue, or last for a while. The good news is that there are direct ways to treat and reduce pain levels through integrative care.

Injury: Recovering from an injury is sometimes a frustrating process that takes longer than we would like. Supporting the body through this process involves both gently working with the injury, and releasing tension from the other parts of the body that are compensating while the injury heals. Bodywork therapies can directly reduce inflammation, relieve tension, and nourish the injury with blood and nutrients. Classes help build awareness of new movement patterns and relieve tension, and Acupuncture can reduce pain signals and promote overall balance for affected systems of the body.

Athletic Performance: Highly active lifestyles like running, rock climbing, and kayaking push your body to higher levels of performance and fun. This means your body needs extra recovery in order to prevent injuries. Classes to support full relaxation, rebalancing, and core strength help the body recover and nourish itself. Bodywork and Cupping Therapy help improve recovery time and can increase athletic performance.

Aging: Small imbalances accumulate into aches and pains over time, which means that getting older often means increased pain from years of repetitive motions, posture habits, and old injuries. Bodywork can help treat and rebalance the causes of these various aches and pains. Acupuncture is effective for reducing pain levels overall, and addressing underlying dysfunctions. Classes reinvigorate and reactivate the body, improve muscle tone and balance, and help develop awareness of movement patterns.

Integrative care offers effective ways to treat pain from injuries, athletic performance, and aging. It supports the body’s own healing processes and increases your internal sense of wellbeing, partnering with you in your care in order to create health.

More Mindful Posture

Our bodies have posture, which means that we resist the pull of gravity by holding our body in a certain shape. A healthy posture gives us ease and economy of motion, helps with coordination, and provides a balance between stability and mobility.

How we move can affect our posture. Think about typing at a keyboard all day, and how that can round the shoulders and move the head forward. These movements train our muscles into certain patterns, which changes our posture, and then our posture affects the shape of even more movements.

Over time, posture issues can get locked into chronic holding patterns in our muscles. This causes ongoing muscle tension and discomfort, from where we are holding ourselves in less than optimal ways. For example, our spine is designed to stack, vertebra by vertebra, to provide a structure that helps support our relatively heavy head. When we lean our head forward off that stack, the muscles in our neck and shoulders compensate. For every inch forward, it is as if the head is 10 pounds heavier!

There are several ways to address posture issues and retrain the body. Mindfulness is one of the most broadly practiced methods. This can be done through reminding yourself to notice your posture every so often throughout the day. It can also be practiced in movement class or during other activities. Notice which muscles you are using, and see if you can shift that movement so that it comes from the core instead of the extremity. Somatics and Feldenkrais also really help connect awareness to movement in order to correct imbalanced patterns.

In addition to mindfulness and therapeutic movement techniques, bodywork that addresses fascia can be very helpful for posture issues. Structural Integration and Myofascial Release techniques help adjust the connective tissues that hold the body in the shape it is used to, releasing old impingements and adhesions to free up range of motion.

Working on healthy posture is progressive. The more you can learn to engage the right muscles and release tension from less healthy patterns, the better your posture will be. It is often a process of cultivating awareness, and can have tremendous benefits for overall health and wellbeing.

Movement that Restores Wellbeing

Our bodies are made to move! Deep biological processes in the organs, tissues, and nervous system are based on a foundation of physical movement and activity. This is why therapeutic movement can have such profound health and healing effects; the right kinds of movement can restore function and health at their root.

Therapeutic Movement classes like we offer at Ha.Lé are designed to work for a wide range of bodies, ages, and experience levels. They help create health, reduce stress, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. On a physical level, they:

  • Increase circulation
  • Increase bone density
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Release tension
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve balance

Movement classes also provide significant mental health support by increasing mental clarity, reducing anxiety, and stabilizing mood. We can then further strengthen the mind-body connection by adding mindfulness practices and body awareness in order to boost the stress and pain management benefits. Being in class also activates social wiring and mirror neurons in the brain, deepening your practice through being in community.

One of the most effective ways to support your health and feel better in your body and mind is to set aside time for therapeutic movement classes. It creates a space dedicated to caring for yourself, and activates deep natural processes of health.

Knee & Joint Health

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make a variety of interesting sounds. Especially if you are increasing or changing your physical activity level, these sounds can be alarming. Often they cause worry about the health of the joint and whether something serious could be wrong.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just noisy or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. (Hydration in this case means more than just drinking enough liquids; it means using movement or manual therapies to move fluids through the tissues themselves.) Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Compassionate Self-Care

Compassionate self-care begins with where you are right now, at this moment. Instead of focusing on the general laundry list of criticisms so prevalent this time of year, it starts with acceptance of what is happening now, and then opens the gateway to a place that feels more sustainable for both physical and mental health.

Our bodies are often talked about in terms of how they look, or their aesthetic. Some of how we look is a choice, like our awesome shoes or warm hat, and much of how we look is not something that is under our control, like the shape of our eyes or the length of our legs. When we think critically about our bodies for things that we cannot control, we often end up with a loop of critical self-talk that harms our wellbeing.

A better way to talk about our bodies is in terms of how we feel, and how we feel in our bodies is something that we can change, often more than we realize. Taking yourself to class or for a walk can help you feel better for the rest of the day, or several days. Receiving bodywork can release muscle tension and mental stress, leaving you feeling better for days or weeks afterward. Coming to a counselor to talk through feelings of distress can help process through mental and emotional stresses that impact daily life, and acupuncture can effectively address pain and systemic imbalances that disrupt things like sleep and digestion.

If we let go of our expectations that our bodies should have a certain aesthetic, and instead focus on how we feel, we realize the transformative power of self-care. Our bodies are marvellous mechanisms of life, and there are so many ways to support and care for ourselves. When we start with this moment, and ask ourselves what would genuinely help us feel better physically and mentally, then we open the door to creating health and a sense of deep wellbeing.

Movement Classes to Reduce Stress

When we feel stress, it is a whole body event. Moving our bodies, dropping in to our breath, and being more fully present helps us shift the state of our nervous system. It supports our ability to move out of crisis mode and toward health and wellbeing.

Our stress hormones are designed to flood our bodies with the extra boost we need to escape lions, tigers, and bears. This is great when we need it, but modern stress does not involve a lot of literal running for our lives. Instead, we often end up stuck in a chronic stress state, where our body thinks that we are always in mortal danger and is constantly sounding alarms. This impairs our ability to repair, restore, and nourish our health.

Movement classes create a dedicated time and space to speak to our stress alarms and give them permission to quiet down. When we drop in to our bodies, it brings us to the present moment and helps turn our attention away from thoughts of the future and past. In this moment, we have breath. We have a heartbeat. There are parts of our bodies that ask for our attention, like sore knees, tight shoulders, or clenched jaws. We can greet them and allow them to move back toward balance.

Being in class also works with our natural neurobiology to reduce stress. It helps to rewire the reactions of our nervous systems away from crisis mode, increasing our ability to handle a stressful situation and recover. It also engages mirror neurons in the brain, amplifying the effect of our practice. When we practice self-care and therapeutic movement with others in a class setting, our brains see other people doing what we are doing, and it increases its effectiveness within our own systems.

Movement classes help manage stress by releasing muscle tension, resetting the nervous system, and increasing our resiliency in the face of difficult situations. Where stress is our body trying to help us survive, we can utilize movement and breath to help ourselves recover and thrive.

Relieving Neck Pain

Our necks are amazing structures that allow us to a great deal of flexibility to see, hear, and smell, even as they are strong enough to protect the spinal column connecting the brain to the rest of the body. As a flexible, nerve-rich body part, they can also be a source of a lot of pain when they develop imbalances. Integrative care can address these imbalances and reduce both long term and short term neck pain.

Bodywork is an effective treatment for neck pain. Muscular tension in the neck, upper back, and shoulders can all cause neck pain, and bodywork is able to effectively release that tension and address any underlying issues with the connective tissue and fascia that may be contributing to chronic discomfort. Neck pain does not always originate in the structures of the neck and shoulders, but can also be caused by foot and gait issues, pelvic issues, low and mid back imbalances, jaw dysfunctions, and more. Whole body treatments are able to address the alignment and structure of all of these, helping to release tension elsewhere in the body in order to improve neck health.

Acupuncture is especially effective for chronic neck pain. When the body is in pain for long periods of time, the nervous system can become imbalanced and oversensitized to the pain signals. This has the effect of turning up the volume of the pain and increasing discomfort. Acupuncture is able to turn the volume back down by regulating the nervous system and addressing the oversensitization.

Movement classes are a great way to address the posture, gait, and tension issues that contribute to neck pain. By building awareness of how we carry ourselves and how we move in gravity, we are able to retrain our movement patterns toward better alignment. Stretching and moving also release long held muscular tension and improve blood flow to distressed tissues, encouraging them to heal.

Neck pain is linked to stress, tension, and structural imbalances in the body. Bodywork, acupuncture, and movement classes are all able to reduce stress levels, release tension, and address imbalances in order to relieve neck pain and support overall wellbeing.

Effective Treatment for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, and research has concluded that integrative care offers the best treatment. An analysis of over 150 studies, published in 2017 by the American College of Physicians, recommends movement therapies, bodywork, acupuncture, and mindfulness as effective treatments, instead of medications.

Integrative care for back pain focuses on techniques that speed up the healing process, relax muscle tension, and address structural issues in joints and tendons that affect the physical health of the back and spine. It can also address pain management directly, helping to regulate the nervous system and reduce the sensation of pain in general.

Movement therapies like classes and clinics are able to address the mechanics of the back, helping to correct imbalanced movement patterns that contribute to pain. Through mindful awareness, neuroplasticity, alignment, and restorative practice, movement therapies can correct and retrain the body away from dysfunction.

Acupuncture is proven to be effective at reducing pain levels in general, and is a great way to address back pain specifically. It helps rebalance underlying issues that contribute to the back pain, as well as working with the nervous system to lower the intensity of pain signals and the perception of pain overall.

Bodywork is able to address the specific muscle tension and joint health that causes a lot of back pain, increasing blood and nutrient flow and supporting the body’s own healing processes. It is able to effectively release tension, address fascial issues, and treat the secondary pain and tension that comes from protective movement.

Mindfulness can also be effective for back pain because it is proven to help lower pain levels in general. After eight weeks of mindfulness practice, there are specific changes that happen in the brain and how it relates to the nervous system, turning down the volume on pain signals and the stress response that pain signals cause.

At Ha.Lé, we are experienced in treating back pain, and will work with you to determine the best course of treatment for your specific situation. Our classes and clinics are able to work with students with a wide variety of back health concerns, and our therapists are able to specifically address the symptoms and imbalances of back pain.

Integrative Treatment for Migraines

Migraine headaches are a common response to both mental and physical stress, and happen more often in women than men. There is no cure for migraines, but there are ways to reduce the symptoms. Acupuncture, Bodywork, Movement, and Mindfulness are integrative treatment options with effective results, without the side effects of medication.

Acupuncture reduces the frequency of migraines with the same effectiveness as preventative medications. Up to 59% of people with migraines see a 50% or more drop in the frequency of their headaches, and the effect of 6 weekly sessions can last for 6 months or more.

Bodywork is also a helpful migraine treatment. It generally reduces the frequency of migraines and improves sleep. On average, it can reduce migraines by 30-34% for up to 4 weeks, according to a 2006 study.

Movement with a therapeutic focus will also reduce migraine frequency and intensity. Migraines are associated with disturbances in the autonomic nervous system and in the regulation of the circulatory system. Movement classes help restore and regulate these systems, as well as target tension and stress that can contribute to headaches.

Mindfulness helps to significantly lower the pain intensity of migraines and correct the effects of stress on the body. One study that looked at mindfulness for migraines found that it had no adverse events, zero drop outs, and excellent adherence, which is a big contrast from pharmaceutical treatment.

Migraines are a disorder of a hyper-excitable brain, and so integrative therapies that reduce stress, rebalance the nervous system, regulate sleep cycles, and lower pain levels can be effective treatment. The medications available only work for 50% of people, and come with significant side effects. Research has shown that Acupuncture is just as effective as those medications, and other integrative treatments are also able to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines.

The Importance of Breath

The breath is one of our most important healing tools, and possibly one of the most overlooked. Breathing is something we do all day, every day, usually without conscious thought. Because it is so constant, it disappears into the background of our body awareness. When we consciously think about and change the breath, we are able to speak to the body in very profound ways.

The breath is one of the easiest bridges between the parts of our bodies that we can control and the bodily processes that are not conscious. It is a biological process that naturally falls into both categories, and so becomes a way for our mind to speak to our body directly.

Deep breathing: When we take a deep breath, it stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that calms the body, helping us come out of a state of stress and distress, and move toward rest, restoration, and healing. Deep breathing helps reduce emotional distress and anxiety because it changes how those feelings are felt in the physical body. It can also help bring a sense of calm centeredness and overall wellbeing.

Breath awareness: Turning our attention to the breath is a fundamental mindfulness practice. When we pay attention to the flow of air in and out of our bodies, it cues the mind to tune into the present moment. This allows us to drop the anxiety and stress that comes with thinking about the past and future, and brings us more fully present to the physical reality of being alive. When we practice mindfulness like this, it can rewire neural pathways in the brain to reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and stress.

Breath in the body: The breath is also a physical event in the body, engaging a complex array of muscles and tissues and massaging the internal organs. Injuries, surgeries, and chronic stress can change the way the body breathes, which in turn can cause chronic tension and pain. Linking movement with the breath can help release this muscle tension and reset neuromuscular patterns. There are also breath awareness and breathing techniques that can help address structural issues like pain in the low back, pelvis, and neck and shoulders.

The breath is a powerful healing tool that allows us to speak to parts of the body that we cannot reach with the mind alone. By changing how we breathe and how we pay attention to our breath, we are able to counter the effects of chronic stress, reduce anxiety, release muscle tension, treat pain, and bring a sense of overall wellbeing.