Practice Being Uncomfortable...
“Practice doing uncomfortable things in a controlled setting- that way you are ready for all of life’s surprises.”
Living with chronic pain often means feeling discomfort every day. Your body hurts, aches, screams at you- but somehow you still have to live your life, right? You don’t want to miss out on all that life has to offer. It sucks to stay inside, feeling exhausted, hanging out on the couch watching others live an active busy life.
Well, it may seem counterintuitive, but putting your body through “purposeful discomfort” may actually be the thing you need to make the pain go away. Autoimmune Strong is built upon this philosophy- that purposeful discomfort can come from movement, and that movement can, over time, with practice and dedication, serve to minimize pain and discomfort.
Movement by itself doesn’t make the pain go away; in fact, many people find that moving their bodies throughout their daily routines causes the pain and discomfort they feel at the end of the day. But purposeful movement is different. Purposeful movement means doing things that actively serve your body in a way that makes it more capable of moving properly through the world.
For example: carrying groceries from the store to your car is movement, but it’s not purposeful. It does nothing to improve your posture and musculature. So, perhaps you have tight muscles and a weak back; carrying groceries will feel painful, because the weight of the bags will put strain on your body’s weaknesses and only make them weaker, causing you pain. An example of purposeful movement is performing an exercise that helps your body correct these issues, so you are more capable of carrying groceries without straining your body, neck and shoulders. So- if you practice strength and stretching exercises focusing on the total body- core, glutes, legs, shoulders, arms and back - this will prepare you for carrying your groceries in a safe way, which will minimize pain, discomfort, and risk of flare-up. The exercises you have practiced will have helped your body adapt to proper movement practices, which then get put into action during these real life settings.
And it’s not just your muscles and your posture that needs to adapt, it’s your immune system too! With chronic pain, if we push our bodies too hard to do movements we aren’t prepared for, we put ourselves at risk of overloading our system with stress, which sets our system into overload, and can cause an immune system flare. By working on purposeful movements a little at a time, bit by bit, your immune system will adapt to the stress on the system, and it will learn how to cope. Over time, you will be able to add more intensity without overloading your system. (You can read more about exercise induced system flare ups here)
And it’s important to practice this purposeful movement in a controlled setting, like in your home or a gym. That way, you can make sure that you focus completely on the movement, giving your body time to adapt to the pressure of the movement. And when you come across the same movement in your daily activities (like how a deadlift mimics picking a dirty sock up off the floor) your body will know how to do that movement properly, without stress or strain.
You see- exercise itself is not comfortable. Nobody ever feels great while exercising- especially in the beginning of a new exercise regimen. It feels uncomfortable, and at times, painful, and it’s hard to summon the motivation to do it. But there is a reason it works. It prepares you for the challenges you will face outside the safe security of your workout regimen. And for people living with chronic pain, that is invaluable, for it will lead to less pain, fewer injuries, more energy, and a desire to get out there and live an active life.