EXERCISE

Note: This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Movement Practices

My Personal Experience:

The Feldenkrais Method, as described in Wikipedia, is a movement-based approach where a practitioner directs attention to a person's inefficient or strained habitual movement patterns and teaches them new patterns using gentle, slow, repeated movements. It is used to improve movement patterns because habitual and repetitive movement patterns can contribute towards and in some cases cause injury, pain, and physical dysfunction.


 I attended two Feldenkrais classes when I was still in a great deal of pain and hadn't recognized my contributing traumas (described in My Journey). The Feldenkrais classes didn't relieve my pain (granted, I admit I didn't keep up with the program), and they saddened me at the time because they reminded me that this former gymnast's body could no longer move without pain. 


The Alexander Technique, according to the "Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique" website, is a way of learning how you can get rid of harmful tension in your body by helping you identify inefficient habits of movement and patterns of accumulated tension, which interfere with our innate ability to move easily. It offers the opportunity to learn to move mindfully through life and take charge of one’s own learning and healing process. I have not tried any classes using the Alexander Technique. 


In general, I think subtle, moderate, and efficient movement is good, but I'm not sure these techniques alone would heal highly emotion- or trauma-fed chronic pain like mine. They could likely help those of us in this category manage our pain, similar to activities such as good posture and ergonomics. I suspect movement practices could be helpful in eliminating chronic pain when coupled with other approaches like JFB-MFR, talk therapy, tapping, Somatic Experiencing (SE™), and/or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Rating: (+)

BOTTOM LINE:  Haven't tried extensively, but potentially helpful.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Bicycling

My Personal Experience:

At first my pain was too acute for me to even think of exercising. I couldn't keep my head up long enough to prepare dinner, or even to sit and eat a meal. But once I finally got my pain down slightly (over a year into my pain and after several trigger point injections), and I read that moderate aerobic exercise helped patients reduce their myofascial pain symptoms, I was determined to try.


I started riding a recumbent stationary bicycle at my local community center. I'd lie down to rest my neck in between the taxing activities of driving there (eight minutes) and pedaling the bicycle on zero resistance for ten minutes. I ultimately increased my pedaling to forty-five minutes with moderate resistance. The increase in blood flow and modest aerobic workout I was getting seemed to slightly reduce my pain, but only temporarily. The physical activity was at least a small psychological boost to the extremely depressing situation of being so incapacitated for so long. 


I eventually got an outdoor hybrid bike with shock absorbers and found I could tolerate moderate biking outdoors up to about thirty minutes. And according to Dr. Sarno (see Reading about mindbodylink), once you accept that there is not any structural problem, you can do any activity, albeit slow to start. To date, I can bike some, but biking for too long still flares up my symptoms.

Rating: (+)

BOTTOM LINE: Somewhat helpful; psychologically positive.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Dance Classes

My Personal Experience:

After more than two years of pain, when I had significantly improved after my John F. Barnes myofascial release (JFB-MFR) intensive treatment, I took various dance classes (e.g., modern dance, contact improvisation, ballet). While I could tolerate about thirty to forty-five minutes of these classes and was thrilled to be doing something active, my neck pain often increased afterwards, so I stopped.


Plus, driving myself to a dance class, attending the class, and driving back home took its toll on my body over and above the dance classes themselves. I have found if I do exercise activities at home (e.g., Zumba videos) I can better moderate the time I'm engaged in an activity and I do not have to drive anywhere (which generally aggravates my symptoms).    


I have since tried more modern dance classes, including the Duncan Technique, which I have found to be a particularly mindful type of dance that I may pursue further, although it can still aggravate my symptoms if I inadvertently do too much.


Dancing hasn't eliminated my pain, but movement is good for circulation, general health, and has a psychological benefit for me. Nonetheless, I've taken a break because of the flare-ups, which might also have been caused by several other confounding factors, but flare-ups nonetheless. 

Rating: (+/-)

BOTTOM LINE:  Temporarily aggravated my pain to a small degree, but psychologically positive.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Yoga

My Personal Experience:

The first yoga class I tried was one year into my pain and before my pain was down to manageable levels. I could hardly do any of the moves and I cried through half the class because I was in such pain and because I was so far from the gymnast I once was—and still longed to be. 


A couple years later, when my pain had come down significantly after I'd discovered that trauma and emotions were feeding my pain, I tried a yoga class for people living with pain. It didn't help me and slightly flared up my symptoms. I know many people swear by yoga for healing purposes, but it didn't offer me relief. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind. 


I recently observed an aerial yoga class thinking that hanging my head upside down while suspended in the air might relieve pressure on my neck and give me some gymnastics-like pleasure while focusing on the mind and body typical of a yoga class. However, the length of time the participants must hold their heads up (or hold them in other potentially neck straining positions) ultimately steered me away.


Even though the two times I tried yoga were not successful, I don't necessarily discredit it. There are many styles of yoga, and I am considering trying restorative (yin) yoga, which is a slow gentle practice that employs passive stretching. In addition, I found renewed interest after reading the book Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover From Trauma and Extreme Stress by Lisa Danylchuk, which addresses how Yoga can help with trauma treatment.

Rating: (+/-)

BOTTOM LINE:  Flared up my symptoms, but I don't necessarily discredit it.



My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Pilates

My Personal Experience:

I was told conflicting things about Pilates. Some people said it would help me by strengthening my core and by increasing the stability of my spine and thus would reduce my pain. On the other hand, some people said it might only reinforce fascial restrictions and pain. Not knowing who to believe, I tried a one-on-one Pilates class three years into my pain saga (a year after my first John F. Barnes myofascial release [JFB-MFR] intensive, which had greatly reduced my initial pain). 


The Pilates session significantly flared up my symptoms maybe because I didn't go to a specially trained instructor in injured populations, as my Pilates-instructor friend told me to do. I know that many people have found pain relief by doing Pilates, but it didn't offer me relief. I think my gymnast mentality pushed me further than I should have gone. 


Maybe someday I could try it again, but I find that any time my competitive side can leak out, I push myself too far and then regret it later. This doesn't mean others might not benefit, especially if it allows them to tap into their body's wisdom and change maladapted muscle patterns through muscular re-education (and as long as it doesn't reinforce the bad patterns).

Rating: (--)

BOTTOM LINE:  Greatly flared up my symptoms. 


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Walking/Jogging

My Personal Experience:

In years five through six of my pain (after many John F. Barnes myofascial release [JFB-MFR] bodywork sessions had significantly decreased my pain), I tried to “jog” (or should I say “shuffle”) on a few occasions. However, my neck pain increased. The rock-hard trigger points on the sides of my neck (“Frankenstein bolts” as I called them) would cause me great pain. I still ventured out for short jogs hoping the exercise might do me some good, but the pain still increased afterwards.


Then in 2012 I read Steve Ozanich's book The Great Pain Deception. He healed himself by reading Dr. Sarno's books and was able to start jogging and playing golf after decades of pain. I went out the next day and miraculously didn't feel the wrath of the Frankenstein bolts. I focused on the parts of my body that didn't hurt (as Mr. Ozanich suggested). And it worked! I had no added pain while jogging and no added pain after! And to this day I can still jog for short distances without crumbling in pain for days after. Sometimes my pain flares up from excess activity, such as jogging for more than thirty minutes, but that is only a fraction of the time now. (I'm currently waiting and wishing for this same healing effect to reduce or eliminate the rest of my myofascial pain—see Reading about mindbody). 


When I get bored with jogging (it's not my sport of choice), or if I jog for too long and spike up my pain, I replace it with walking or sometimes home exercise programs (e.g., Zumba videos at home) if I feel good enough. I still wish I could do gymnastics, but as someone who has lived five decades, I suppose that would have been an unlikely scenario anyway (although I still was doing some gymnastics at age forty).    


What I've learned is that through moderate exercise I won't do further damage to my body. Since I'm still in the process of healing, I continue to exercise only in moderation because my body and subconscious mind are either still stuck expecting pain, or are very slowly adjusting to not being in pain. I assume the exercise is good for me given the extensive research on the health benefits of moderate exercise.


Another precaution I take is not to jog with others. My competitive nature still causes me to push too far and I can easily flare up my pain. When I exercise by myself I tend to listen to my body more attentively and I don't push to excess as much. 

Rating: (+)

BOTTOM LINE:  Likely helpful; jogging tolerable and helpful only after I embraced the mind-body connection and had already healed significantly; walking more tolerable.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Swimming

My Personal Experience:

After my pain had come down (initially as a result of trigger point injections, but then more so after John F. Barnes myofascial release treatments) and I could do some moderate exercise for limited periods of time, I tried swimming. Lifting my head to breathe aggravated my neck pain so I started using a snorkel. Now I can swim for about twenty minutes as long as I don't use my arms too much. Using a kickboard (to rest my head on and minimize arm movement and neck muscle engagement) helps me avoid overworking my neck.

Rating: (+/-)

BOTTOM LINE: Sometimes slightly flares up my symptoms; good for general health.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Kickboxing

My Personal Experience:

In 2016, while undergoing Somatic Experiencing (SE™) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) treatment to address past trauma, I had anger bubble up from deep inside me again, as it had in many past John F. Barnes myofascial release (JFB-MFR) sessions. So I decided to try kickboxing.


I took six classes in May 2016, and while it felt cathartic to punch and kick, it flared up my neck pain in the hours and days after each class. The pain would come down eventually, but it meant having more days of increased pain. I was only able to try this because of my ability to restand sit in the hot tub in the days in between classes.


My flare-ups after this exercise felt like they were my body’s conditioned response to fear or whatever else might be driving my pain. I may try kickboxing again, with the hope that my body can override those instincts while also expressing pent up anger from my past traumas to allow my body to function without pain.

Rating: (+/-)

BOTTOM LINE:  Flared up my symptoms, but cathartic.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Tai Chi

My Personal Experience:

Tai chi is a mind-body practice that “combines meditation with slow, gentle, graceful movements; deep diaphragmatic breathing; and relaxation” (as described in a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that evaluated treating knee pain with Tai Chi versus physical therapy). The Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health PublicationsHarvard Health Blog (June 15, 2016) reports that Tai Chi “can help treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia (among others).”


My gymnastics co-captain from college who suffered years of back pain recommended Tai Chi to me. I haven't tried Tai Chi yet, but given its approach, I believe it could be helpful in managing pain and quite possibly in helping the healing process move forward. But it also could flare up my pain symptoms as other physical approaches have done.

Rating: (?)

BOTTOM LINE:  Don't know; haven't tried yet.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)