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.

What Acupuncture Can Do

Acupuncture focuses on rebalancing the body. It can both address specific health issues, and help promote overall health. It uses hair-thin needles to cue the body toward balance, and is very safe and effective.

Acupuncture is proven effective for treating pain. It helps with all kinds of pain, including arthritis, dental pain, pain syndromes like fibromyalgia, menstrual pain, back and knee pain, and headaches. It helps by regulating the pain signals of the nervous system in order to turn down the volume. It also is able to address the underlying imbalances that cause the pain in the first place.

In addition to treating pain, acupuncture is able to treat and rebalance the various systems of the body. It is effective for various kinds of allergies, regulating hormonal systems, balancing the heart and circulatory system, and easing digestive difficulties. It works alongside other medical treatments, and at Ha.Lé, we are happy to partner with your doctor in your care.

Because acupuncture rebalances the system of the body, it helps improve overall health and wellbeing. It is able to rebalance small problems before they become big problems, and can help keep the many complex systems of the body running more smoothly.

The body is a complex of biological systems interacting with each other. Acupuncture is a safe, effective way to help maintain their balance, creating health deep in the interconnected systems of the body.

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.

How mental health care helps reduce pain

Pain is more than a feeling, but a physical event in the body, with physical, neurological, and psychological effects. When pain is present for extended periods of time or becomes chronic, it changes how our bodies think and feel. Mental health care and counseling can help treat these changes and can often reduce pain levels.

Pain feelings are real, and are subjective, which means that there is no outside test to determine how much pain someone is in. In many ways, pain is like an alarm in the body, and the volume of the alarm can get turned up or down, depending on a lot of complex physical factors. There are mental techniques that help regulate the volume of the alarm and turn it back down, and counseling and mindfulness both help with this process.

Some people with chronic pain or a pain syndrome are reluctant to access mental health care for their pain, because there is a worry that if it is “all in your head”, then it “isn’t real.” Pain is never “all in your head,” but it does have specific mental and emotional consequences in addition to the ways it physically affects the body. All of these effects are real, and deserve to be treated and addressed through care.

Pain changes the way your brain works, and mental health care like counseling can help manage these changes and the stress, depression, anxiety, and other feelings that pain can cause. Our bodies are complex systems, and our minds are a part of that system. Easing suffering is important, and counseling for pain helps do that.

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.

Bodywork for Stress

Bodywork and massage are one of the most well known treatments for stress. When we are stressed out, our muscles tighten, our breathing gets shallow, we have trouble concentrating, and it can impact our sleep. We can feel this tension and dysregulation in our bodies.

Receiving bodywork helps reset these stress symptoms, but how does it work its magic? It all begins with the parasympathetic nervous system. Our bodies react to stress by activating the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight or flight mode. The parasympathetic system turns off fight or flight and moves us to rest and digest mode. Bodywork is a very effective way to activate the parasympathetic system and turn off the alarms of stress.

Stress tightens muscles, getting them ready to fight off lions. Since there usually aren’t any real lions to fight, we can end up carrying around a tremendous amount muscle tension. Bodywork works directly with this tension to reset the state of the muscle. This helps cue the nervous system to reset as well, so that tension releases both from outside stimulation and internal cues.

Stress is also a biochemical event in the body, releasing cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones. Bodywork is effective for lowering the stress hormone levels of the body. This in turn promotes more restful sleep, regulates digestion, and even helps regulate mood for a deeper sense of wellbeing.

Bodywork is an effective treatment for stress because it helps reset the nervous system and turn off the biochemical alarms. It helps activate the body’s own ability to recover and heal by improving blood and nutrient flow, reducing tension, and releasing endorphins. This in turn helps you sleep and feel better.

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.

Restoring Joy to Generosity

The stress of the holiday season can reduce the joy we feel when we are giving and generous, and can deplete our capacity to give. We can restore our joy and activate the proven health benefits of practicing generosity through connecting with other people and practicing empathy.

Managing stress is key to restoring joy! Because the holiday season is often a time of family gatherings and social togetherness, it can bring up old hurts and emotions. Talking through your feelings with a counselor can help clear the air and restore your emotional equilibrium. Counseling can also help address climbing anxiety levels and work through feelings of depression. Creating time to take care of your emotional self can be a very effective way to address the increasing stress of this time of year, since unacknowledged emotions, unmet expectations, and mood dysregulation can all translate into general feelings of high stress.

When we are able to manage our stress levels, it can greatly increase our capacity to give and to feel generous. This in turn has proven health benefits, as it activates positive feedback loops in the brain. This positive feedback has been shown to increase longevity and improve heart health. It also releases oxytocin, the hormone that helps you feel deep wellbeing through trust and happiness.

Another way to increase our joy and capacity for generosity is to practice mindfulness. When we give to others, no matter the size of the gift, we can be mindful of how that gift makes them feel, and allow ourselves to connect to their feelings. By mindfully practicing empathy, we are able to increase everyone’s joy!

Treating stress through self-care, counseling, and mindfulness replenishes our resources for connection with others. We are then able to feel more of the joy that comes from being generous, filling our own hearts and the hearts of those around us.