Stop Chasing the Pain

In my experience over the past 16 years teaching Pilates-based movement, I’ve found that the number one commonality among people with chronic musculoskeletal pain is an imbalance in the body; an imbalance between strength and flexibility – from front of the body to back of the body or from right to left. These imbalances often manifest themselves as pain somewhere in the body – back, knee, shoulder, even foot, and the pain will often travel up or down the kinetic chain, which leads people to “chase the pain” from one body part to another. For example, I’ve been working with a client for about a year and a half who originally came in looking for relief from plantar fasciitis. The pain over the course of several years had traveled from one foot to the other and into her lower back. Swimming was the only exercise she could do without suffering consequences. She had to think twice about activities that most people take for granted, like walking through Costco or going to Disneyland.

Common treatments for plantar fasciitis – icing, stretching/strengthening the muscles in the calf and plantar fascia, orthotics – had helped manage her symptoms somewhat but did not provide permanent relief. Physical therapy had the biggest impact, however, the scope of treatment was isolated to the lower leg and did not investigate possible imbalances in the rest of the body that may have been contributing. On recommendation from her partner who had been working with me for years, she found her way to my studio. By assessing her alignment and movement patterns, we were able to identify how the extreme tightness in her quadriceps and a general lack of core strength were causing compensations in the way her body functioned as a whole. We set out to re-educate her structure using the concepts of Pilates and over time, the tightness in her quads let go, her body awareness improved, she gained some core strength and……………the pain in her feet and lower back went away (without ever specifically addressing her feet). Now she uses her annual Disneyland pass regularly without a second thought!

Now, to be honest, I did have some help. There are many times when dealing with long-term imbalances that re-educating the body and restoring function requires the collaboration of modalities. I have discovered that a combination of manual therapy (massage, Rolfing, Active Release Technique) and movement therapy is the perfect combination. Throughout the years, I have built a “team” of manual therapy practitioners I trust and that understand this relationship. There comes a point in working with a client when progress plateaus and that’s when I know it’s time to call in the reinforcements! Some tissues seem to respond to re-education through movement only to a certain point and then things get stuck. That’s where manual manipulation becomes so helpful. After a few sessions, the sticky spots are released and we are back to making progress.

Looking at the body as one machine, a sum of the parts, is critical in tracking down the root of the problem. That’s why this model is so effective. Restoring proper function, encouraging all the parts to work together as they were originally designed to do, is my mission.

If you or someone you know are dealing with chronic pain of this nature and have “tried everything,” you might consider this option and I would be more than happy to help.

2 Responses

  1. Liz Krogsdale

    Very good! Just one example of your great work, Tamara!

  2. Great article!! I’m famous…seriously, it is quite informative and well written. Maybe someone suffering as I did will read it and get cracking on this treatment model.

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