By Dr Holly Middleton
Being injured and in pain is frustrating. Often you have to give up on the things you love to do. Having the same injury come back time and time again or your body never really go back to normal can feel like your body is conspiring against you.
I was there. I kept straining my lower back over and over while doing everyday movements.
No matter what I tried it didn’t stop the cycle. I tried so many things to stop being on constant alert that my back could get hurt again. It wasn’t until I learned that my pelvis was out of alignment that I found the answer. Every time I moved it in a certain way my back muscles, already at the end of their rope, gave way.
Worrying about my back was distracting. The worry prevented me from fully participating in the activities I enjoyed and I never knew what innocent movement might reinjure it. It was no way to live.
One evening, laid up on the couch yet again, out of sheer boredom I went online and stumbled across movement coaching. That’s when I learned that my out-of-whack pelvis wasn’t my fault. It was my body’s response to cope with the effects of scars in my torso from a surgery I’d had 2 decades ago. Finally I had an answer and, even better, a plan to make lasting changes.
Movement coaching is different from what I’d encountered in standard health care. We see our massage therapists and chiropractors and they get our body back into a relaxed, pain free and integrated state. But we need to keep ourselves there. Movement coaching was the final piece of my treatment plan that kept my injuries from returning.
Movement coaches are trained to see details other health care professionals aren’t. They
take a systems approach looking at the movement of every part of the ENTIRE body and identifying which parts are out of sync and reintroducing movement. We spent the time to look at every one of your 206 bones and all of their joints to see how they’re moving. We are trained to understand how every joint is moving in three dimensions and how to unwind those patterns that are causing you pain.
Practitioners work together with the client and their injury history to find out why they are moving the way they are and provide their body with more options to move that resolves pain. The practitioner isn’t ‘fixing’ the client. Instead, by reintroducing range of motion, the client’s body decides how much of that rediscovered range of motion to start using. In science jargon this is called ‘neuroplasticity’.
When I discovered movement coaching it seemed like some kind of voodoo. But I discovered that my torso scars changed how my torso moved, which impacted my pelvis and even changed how my feet were functioning. Surely moving seemingly distant parts of my body in a new way couldn’t have an impact on my recurring back pain. But boy was I wrong.
If a part isn’t moving it’s putting strain on the whole body, everything connected to it and even things further away. Just like an elaborate domino setup. Moving a domino beside you moves all the dominos in between and eventually knocks over that domino on the far end of the room. They’re all connected and they need to work together one after the other to cause that far domino to fall.
Improving my torso movement and my foot movement meant I was able to resolve my back pain and fully participate in the activities I was hesitant to give 100% to in the past.
Working with a movement coach takes about an hour once a week. In the first visit the movement coach will do a full injury history, assess your posture and get you to move individual joints one by one. They will come up with an overall picture of how well you are moving those joints and then develop a strategy with you to restore that movement. Clients will go home with exercises to maintain their corrections in between sessions. Typically a client will need 4-6 sessions with about 3 maintenance sessions to address one injury.
The overall goal for the movement coach is to give the client all the tools they need to gain body awareness of the movements that cause their injury, give them strategies to recognize their early symptoms and exercises they can do to prevent recurrence. By the end of the treatments the client leaves with the tools they need to no longer require the help of the movement coach.
For me it means over 5 years injury free and back to doing everything I love to do. I have gained much more body awareness and I now have a toolkit to keep myself well for years to come.
Movement coaches come into the picture at a certain phase in your healing. After you’re over the acute phase of your injury and after you’ve restored your neurology associated with the injury, movement coaches are brought in to get your back to moving pain free. You may have seen one of Tonume’s chiropractors, our physiotherapist or a massage therapist. Once you’re cleared to put movement back into your life, the movement coach can get you back to where you no longer need to rely on our practitioners to keep you well.
Holly is a movement coach at Tonume Integrated Health. A former amateur salsa champion and ballet dancer, she has a PhD in biology and worked as a conservation biologist before joining Tonume. Visit her YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/channel/UCw4qtuzFWqz1t0qTjq-7yEw or her website www.flowmovement.ca