To Move or Not to Move? A question of percentages

Feb 8, 2024 | Newsletter

That is the question I ask myself a dozen times daily when working with my students and patients. I ask the same question when licking my own wounds. I gravitate toward movement 95% of the time.

But there is a caveat—the question needs refinements: What should we move? Move the injured area or stay away from it? Which direction? How much? How many movements before we give the system a rest? The answer to each question is a hypothesis to test using feedback from sensing, feeling, observation, and checking in. Recalibrating or even changing course is a constant in this dynamic healing process.

What about that 5%?

There are two situations where no movement might be a better healing strategy. The first is instability when the injured part is too mobile. A good example is a torn ligament that has lost its ability to hold the joint in place. The second is those moments in life when our entire system is under extreme stress. In such times, our brain is vulnerable and hypersensitive, on alert, perceiving potential danger from everywhere.

A lesson in compassion

I remember such a state about 18 years ago, right after my ACL reconstruction knee surgery. When you wake up after such a procedure, you have to be able to get up from a chair and navigate the crutches to be released. With the epidural still in effect, I couldn’t use my good leg. It was paralyzed like a noodle and could bear no weight. Did something go wrong during the surgery? Scary thoughts crowded and elbowed my mind. Luckily, within 20 minutes, my legs got back online. I was able to pass the test of ambulating the hallway and was able to go home.

It was December, dark already in the late afternoon, and the snow was falling sideways. My wife, Kasia, was driving. The dashboard’s thermometer showed a comfortable 72° F inside, but it was bitter cold to me, and I was shivering. With jittery teeth, I asked Kasia to raise the temperature. After several back-and-forth calibrations, 72° was too cold and 73° too hot! Next, the music was either too loud or not loud enough. All of my senses were out of whack.

How do you deal with a guy like that?

The following day, I asked Kasia to give me a Feldenkrais lesson. I was craving to sense and feel that my leg was connected again to the rest of me, to feel the movements of the toes and ankle. Within seconds I had to ask her to stop. I could not tolerate even the gentlest touch, even on the opposite leg! The memory of this post-surgery experience fuels compassion for all of our clients who go through similar, brutal episodes that test our tolerance.

 This, too, shall pass

You just need to get through those awful times. There is no exercise, no manual therapy, no magic bullet. You must go to your cave, lick your wounds, and sleep. Sooner or later, homeostasis begins to return. Meditation and breathing exercises might help at this point.

 Then, that red light turns orange. You begin to proceed with the smallest and gentlest movements, cautiously, within the comfort range, resting plenty in between movements. Even with injuries involving hypermobility, ligamentous tears, and spinal problems, you can learn to move in places other than the injured area and other joints.

 Altering the pattern of movement is possible! Such change of habits is often successful in spinal troubles like disc herniation, which happens most frequently in the 4th-5th lumbar or the 5th-6th cervical regions. The disc pathology is likely a result of repetitive, cumulative, excessive movement, strain, and overuse. You could try to immobilize the whole spine for two to four weeks, but how can you live like that? How can you put your socks on, look around, or even walk?

 Spending time learning to shift some movement to the middle spine and rib cage and mobilizing hip joints frequently brings relief and encourages healing very quickly.

 Initial immobility may be the best course in some cases. But immobility must be temporary. Healing—and improving at whatever you do—occurs through quality movement in 100% of cases.

Invitation

I have had the privilege (and tremendous luck) to be surrounded by people who shared their discoveries and knowledge about how we learn and the indisputable role of somatic movement practice for improved quality of life, healing, and rehabilitation. My greatest aspiration is to share that knowledge and quality movement experiences with as many people as possible worldwide.

My Invitation to you

Inspired by my experience, I would like to invite you to a FREE online Feldenkrais workshop, The Power of a Steady Movement Practice for Your Health, Physical & Emotional Wellness & Growth.

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