“The most common sufferers of hip pain come from two opposite demographics: sedentary middle-aged folks or really active people…As the pain gets stronger, we visit our doctor who may tell us that in the distant future we will need a hip replacement. The suggestion of a future hip replacement is accompanied by the explanation that, before the doctor can operate, we have to wait until the pain is unbearable and the joint totally destroyed.”
As I read this in Miranda Esmonde-White’s book, Forever Painless, she could have been reciting my own medical history to me. After an injury that occurred due to an active lifestyle of running, yoga, and aerial dance and then a stubborn desire to not get treatment for the injury, I ended up completely out of alignment and in need of surgery to repair the problem (a tear in my labrum—the soft tissue around the hip socket—and a bony protuberance on my femoral head that was exacerbating the tear).
Not long after surgery, I found myself in pain again. I could no longer run. Certain yoga poses were incredibly painful. I was even too nervous to try getting back up on the silks again. My body, sensitive to the hip I had surgery on, began to compensate by using other areas of my body to carry the pressure of my weight which, in turn, compromised my posture—throwing off my alignment.
The first time I opened Forever Painless I was intrigued but skeptical. I know it’s best to keep exercising in the face of chronic pain. Even for my current condition—which is similar to the previous injuries, causing mechanical pain that does not respond well to painkillers—I have repeatedly been told to continue to stay active, to move in ways that won’t jar the joint too much (swimming, biking, Pilates, yoga, etc.). But is it really possible to move for thirty minutes a day to treat chronic pain?
Chronic pain, defined most commonly as pain that lasts three months or longer, is prevalent in the United States. Sadly, it has unquestionably contributed to the recent opioid epidemic as well as costing Americans approximately $630 billion each year. Could a lot of that be avoided by … movement?
As I continued to read, learning more about how the body works when it’s properly aligned, and hearing stories of people with chronic pain problems (those that were similar to mine as well as those that were not), I started to become more and more convinced. This was no pie-in-the-sky solution, it is, however, a bit of a silver bullet. By moving gently and deliberately, with specific goals in mind, such as easing pain and achieving clean alignment in our bodies, we can reduce our pain. Esmonde-White’s Essentrics exercises don’t promise to cure all chronic pain completely—after all, there are myriad causes of chronic pain and some involve bone degeneration—but even those cases can often be helped by “decompressing the joint through stretching and strengthening.”
For a taste of it yourself, and to help treat one of the most common causes of back pain, try out the exercise below.
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REBALANCING SPINE SEQUENCE
This exercise is an amazing sequence for rebalancing the entire torso: spine, abdominal, and gluteus muscles. Back pain is often caused when the torso’s muscles become unbalanced: too weak, too strong, or too tight. This sequence will unlock the muscles of your spine, ribs, and hips, liberating compressed, damaged joints. While following these exercises, focus on the full spine: the front and back. Imagine as you are doing the exercise that you are using every one of your thirty-three vertebrae separately.
If some parts of your spine are blocked and won’t budge, which is common, don’t give up. Keep trying. Don’t focus on being perfect but instead, focus on feeling any movement at all along your spine. Even the tiniest movement means that you are slowly unlocking your joints and muscles. Over time, they will loosen up.
1. Stand straight with your feet apart and arms at your sides.
2. Bend your knees, tuck your tailbone under, round your back, and raise your shoulders.
3. Lift your arms in front to shoulder height, keeping them relaxed.
4. Lift your shoulders as high as possible.
5. Reverse the position by standing straight and lifting your arms over your head as you
open your chest.
6. Pull your arms behind you, keeping your elbows bent and lowering your shoulders. Imagine that you are slipping your shoulder blades into your back pockets.
7. At the same time, bend your knees and arch your back by sticking out your bum.
8. Return to starting position.
9. Repeat this sequence slowly at least 8 times in a row.
Incorrect Spine Position in Rebalancing Sequence
Do not lean backward in this sequence. Dropping backward will push your body weight forward, stressing your knees and compressing your lower vertebrae.
To benefit from all of Esmonde-White’s knowledge of the body, movement, and healing, check out Forever Painless.
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