There is a lot of “hard science” behind effective injury rehab, sport performance and fitness training. I need to know how a particular movement/exercise or manual therapy technique is going to impact a client’s joint, muscle, skeletal and nervous system. For example movement can be analyzed, joint angles measured, muscle strength tested and graded. The nervous system can be divided into separate components of sensation and motor control and tested individually to determine what level of the spine/brain corresponds to a particular body part/region. It’s about collecting and analyzing data, then applying a systematic approach to increase or decrease values: better range of motion, more strength, less pain etc.
Without diminishing the quantitative, evidence based approach there is an equal amount of “soft science” that encompasses the “art” of movement training/injury rehab. I work with people not body parts. People move and are moved by human experiential qualities. Through movement and posture we communicate nonverbally our inner feelings and thoughts. Dance and great works of painting/sculpture are examples of how we communicate the human experience nonverbally.
The postural habit of leaning off to one side while standing can convey muscular weakness, hip/knee pathology, emotional indignation or other “attitudes”. Torticollis/stiff neck can start with the habitual tilting of the head to one side a person adopts when conveying attentiveness while listening.
Pain will distort body posture and impose new movement patterns that compensate for the lack of pain free movement. The psycho/emotional fear of pain can be even more limiting. Statistics of post ACL reconstruction surgery reveal rather low numbers of athletes who return to a high level of sport performance, fear of re injury being one of the biggest hurdles.
Rest and the avoidance of movement is one the most common recommendations concerning pain or injury. While rest may be an important therapeutic variable it needs to be balanced with other modalities. Too often people stop moving/exercising altogether and “wait” till the pain goes away.This scenario leads to chronicity and deepens the psychological fear of pain and movement.
Injuries impact the psyche as well as body structures, the opposite is also true – traumatic emotional experiences impact the body. Muscle tone high/low has a direct relationship to psycho/emotional states. A traumatic psycho/emotional injury can “lock in” a high level of nervous system input turning on stress hormones of the fight/flight response. In this case turning down/shuting off the stress response can difficult. For some people the experience of trauma means a down turning or suppression of body processes.
These scenarios highlight the complex overlapping of the mind/body experience. Disciplines like Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, etc. can be effective in helping people develop awareness and sense of self control over their mind/body experience.
Blending evidence based practices and the mind/body approach is at the center of what I do. Combining these approaches is what I originally set out to do when I started Integrated Muscular Therapy. Integrate: combining parts into a whole.