Medium 9781591200659

Where It Hurts and Why

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This book helps readers become proactive in their recovery and guides them to a life that is active, healthy, and virtually free of pain.

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10 Chapters

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1. Why the Body Hurts

ePub

Chapter 1

Why the Body Hurts

The body never lies.

—MARTHA GRAHAM (1894–1991)

As the crowd roared, there was an electric vibration in the air—it was a beautiful afternoon for a college soccer game. The score was tied and there were only a few minutes left in the game. Suddenly, one of the players from the home team stole the ball, broke away from the other players, and quickly moved up the field toward the goal. Janet, the goalie, was left alone to defend against the oncoming player’s shot on goal. Janet quickly reacted and lunged toward the player in hopes of preventing the game-winning score.

In the attempt to block the shot, Janet collided with the other player and dropped to the ground in excruciating pain. The coach and athletic trainer rushed onto the field as Janet clutched her lower leg. A silence immediately fell over the crowd as it became obvious that her injury was very serious. As the ambulance transported Janet to the nearest hospital, it was whispered through the crowd that she had severely fractured her tibia, one of the bones in her lower leg.

 

2. How to Manage Your Pain: The Components of Complete Health

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Chapter 2

How to Manage Your Pain: The Components of Complete Health

Now that you have seen the blueprint of pain, it is time to go to the next level of pain recognition: managing your pain through the components of complete health. Managing pain is similar to building a house. You start by laying the foundation (pouring the concrete) to create a very sound and solid structure. Once the foundation has cured, the frame of the house is constructed, which provides the internal skeleton for the walls and the roof. After the walls and roof have been completed, the details of the inside of the house are then worked on, producing, in the end, a finished product.

This chapter illustrates similar “building” techniques for alleviating your pain, teaching you how to incorporate the components of complete health into your life. Your building blocks are a positive mental attitude (the foundation) to motivate you, healthy habits (walls and roof) to create a healthier body and environment, and the ability to incorporate these elements of better health into everyday life (the finished product). You will then be ready to move into your new pain-free body!

 

3. Take Action Now: The Recipe for Relief

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Chapter 3

Take Action Now: The Recipe for Relief

There are a number of therapeutic approaches that have proven highly effective for alleviating pain, including stretching, strengthening exercises, and massage therapy. These can be done with professional guidance or used as self-help techniques for do-it-yourself relief from discomfort. We also describe tips for immediate relief that you can apply to help ease the pain and swelling related to your injury or illness—rest, ice, compression, heat, elevation, and support (aka RICHES). These elements are common therapeutic practices used by most healthcare professionals. In this chapter, we outline the general principles behind these approaches. Chapters 4–9 will then cover specific stretches, exercises, and massage techniques for each area of the body. As you read, remember the importance of becoming proactive: a good understanding of these action steps will help you feel better.

STRETCHING

Muscles attach to bones, and all the bones in the body make up our skeletal system. Within this complex musculoskeletal system are joints, which are made to flex and extend (bend and straighten), and allow for rotation. Our anatomy is what enables us to move in certain directions. The stretching of our muscles allows for our joints to become more flexible. Over a period of time, due to gravity, age (inactivity, tightness, injury, disease), and poor posture, muscles and tendons begin to tighten and shorten, thus limiting our range of motion and decreasing our flexibility. This is comparable to a rubber band that has been weathered for several months—after a while, the rubber band will break when you try to stretch it. Just like the rubber band, your tightened muscles may cause you to walk stiffly with shortened strides, to hunch over when you are seated or standing, or to experience pain as you bend over to tie your shoes.

 

4. Neck and Shoulder Pain

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Chapter 4

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Marian is a very active sixty-two-year-old woman who walks three miles every day, travels a great deal, eats carefully to stay slim, and strives to stay “young” and fit. But chronic neck and back pain have bothered her for over five years. She tried massage therapy but the relief was short-lived and, before long, she was in distress again. We taught Marian a series of stretching and flexibility exercises that she can do herself, whether she’s at home or traveling, and her life has changed for the better. “I bring diagrams of the relevant stretches wherever I go and practice them daily,” she says. “Occasionally I have a massage and flexibility session to ‘tune up,’ but I arrive at these sessions relaxed instead of in agony. What a nice change!”

NECK PAIN

Neck pain may be caused by tension, stress, or trauma of the cervical spine and the muscles that attach to it. Conditions associated with neck pain include:

• Whiplash/stinger: a traumatic injury caused by violent motion in the neck

 

5. Torso Pain

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Chapter 5

Torso Pain

A young client of Kim’s suffered an unfortunate surgical outcome three years ago. At the age of fifteen, Lisa underwent back surgery to correct her spinal misalignment, caused by severe scoliosis. On the morning of her surgery she entered the hospital walking. Weeks later, she left the hospital confined to a wheelchair. There were some complications during surgery that resulted in the loss of her lower-body function. It has been a long and difficult road for this young girl over the years, but because of her willingness to remain positive, her abilities have improved immeasurably. She suffers from severe muscle spasms in her trunk/torso/abdominal area and lower legs. These spasms can be very painful and frightening, sometimes causing an inability to move her trunk. We have spent many hours teaching her how to stretch her upper body (torso, trunk, abdominals, neck, and shoulders) while being restricted to her wheelchair. The stretching exercises have helped her control or eliminate the spasms in her torso, thus controlling or eliminating her pain. In addition, she has learned several “wheelchair” strengthening exercises. She now is able to transfer herself to her own bed, therapy table, and bathtub. She has maintained a great attitude, willingness to learn, and tremendous self-esteem. “My confidence has helped me to be strong since the surgery and it has made me look at life in a different way. I am so appreciative of the tools that I have acquired to keep my life comfortable and strong.”

 

6. Pain in the Arm, Wrist, and Hand

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Chapter 6

Pain in the Arm, Wrist, and Hand

As a certified athletic trainer, I (Angela) have treated many athletes with an inflammatory condition of the elbow called epicondylitis: pain on the inside (medial) or outside (lateral) areas of the elbow. This condition is usually caused by overuse. I administer several sports medicine treatments, including icing the area, stretching the arm muscles, applying heat, ultrasound, a tension elbow strap, and referral to a physician for a prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs. The athletes with epicondylitis progress slowly, but being a persistent athletic trainer, I often broaden my therapy regimen to include massage therapy and chiropractic care. This more holistic approach facilitates a speedier recovery for these athletes.

ARM PAIN

Arm pain may be the result of direct trauma or injury (repetitive stress or overuse) to the muscles or ligaments surrounding the elbow, shoulder, and wrist joints. Conditions associated with arm pain include:

• “Tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow”: inflammation of the muscles, tendons, or bursa surrounding the elbow joint (Tennis elbow is pain at the outside of the elbow joint; golfer’s elbow is pain at the inside of the elbow joint.)

 

7. Hip and Low-Back Pain

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Chapter 7

Hip and Low-Back Pain

Kate had been an active runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, and rower for years and thrived on activity as an antidote to her sedentary office job. But over the years, musculoskeletal imbalances began to take their toll and intense hip/sciatic nerve pain forced her to quit running and other high-impact activities in her late twenties. She had multiple MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and tried chiropractic treatments, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy, but to no avail. “I never realized how the types of exercises and stretches I was doing were probably causing more harm than good,” Kate says. She then met Kim and began learning the Active Isolated Stretching method, which has made a tremendous difference. This past summer, at the age of forty-seven, she even won a road-cycling championship. Kate sticks with her stretching routine and it helps her through periodic flare-ups. “After living with chronic pain for many years, and trying many conventional and alternative therapies, I feel at peace knowing I have a tool for self-healing.”

 

8. Pain in the Upper Leg and Knee

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Chapter 8

Pain in the Upper Leg and Knee

Deirdre had been active in a variety of sports for most of her adult life. Soccer, triathlons, and rowing were important activities because they helped “recharge her batteries.” In 2002, during a soccer game, she felt a “pop” in her right quadriceps muscle and the pain was immediate. Initially, she thought the injury might heal without intervention, but Deirdre eventually sought professional advice. While surgery was a consideration, she opted for nonsurgical remedies, including stretching, massage, and progressive resistance training. “Not only did these methods help the quadriceps, but I incorporated the stretching exercises into my daily athletic routine and my injury rate has decreased dramatically,” says Deirdre. “And my overall flexibility and athletic performance has improved.”

UPPER-LEG PAIN

Leg pain may be caused by direct trauma, overexertion, muscular imbalance, weakness, or lack of flexibility in the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments). Conditions associated with upper-leg pain include:

 

9. Pain in the Lower Leg, Ankle, and Foot

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Chapter 9

Pain in the Lower Leg, Ankle, and Foot

Tony had competed in track and field at the highest level for six years when he tore his Achilles tendon (he had a 50 percent tear) while training for the 2000 Olympic Games. He flew back from Japan and came to see me (Kim). He started his rehabilitation immediately with regular massage and acupuncture treatments. In the following weeks, I worked with Tony to improve flexibility in the calf and lower-leg area as well as to realign the fibers in the tendon itself. The rehabilitation was a long one, but Tony was able to compete at the next Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

LOWER-LEG PAIN

Lower-leg pain may be the result of direct trauma, a complete or incomplete break of the tibia (shin bone), overstretching, or overexertion of the muscles or tendons. Conditions associated with lower-leg pain include:

• Calf strain: strain or injury to the muscles or tendons in the back of the lower leg

• Calf “cramping”: muscle spasm in the back of the lower leg causing severe pain and discomfort; occurs commonly in the evenings but may occur anytime

 

10. If Your Pain Doesn’t Go Away

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Chapter 10

If Your Pain Doesn’t Go Away

We have taken you through an extensive journey of discovery, pain self-identification, and action steps to help you with your condition. But what do you do if your pain does not go away? The first thing to remember is, don’t give up. Your condition may cause pain, frustration, and even depression, but it is crucial to your recovery that you be persistent in seeking a solution and have a positive approach to achieving a better quality of life. Throughout this book, we have shown that a positive mental attitude works, with many examples of people who have overcome or managed their pain with a proactive approach.

In this chapter, we include answers to some additional healthcare questions to help you continue on your journey to better health:

• When should I see a doctor?

• What questions are appropriate to ask my doctor?

• How do I keep the attention of my doctor?

• To what extent do I “stick to my guns” and avoid being put off by my doctor?

WHEN SHOULD I SEE A DOCTOR?

 

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