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Creating new movement patterns post-injury

Selena DeLeon

Sunday, December 16, 2018

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Do you have pain in your body? Does it ache at the end of the day? Do you have a niggle that you get “treated” that just seems to keep coming back? Any of these are a sign that your body is not functioning efficiently. There is an imbalance, weak muscles, strong muscles, overly tight muscles, overstretched muscles.

Biomechanically our bones and muscles have ways (movement patterns) in which they work best. Any slight change in these bones and muscles alignment or recruitment, and we no longer function efficiently. We start to practise bad movement patterns (compensatory patterns) that over time can lead to ongoing pain, physical and energetic imbalances, repetitive strain, injuries, and generally an unhappy body.

We are built to survive, so our natural instinct is to get on with it and beat out the movement no matter the cost. Compensatory patterns are unconscious, so despite the conditions, your body will always do its best to meet your demands of movement, and the longer you move like this is the more havoc is wreaked throughout the entire system. This is affecting even places which are seemingly remote and unrelated to the source of the problem. It is widely accepted that practising new movement strategies do change the course of the outcome. Pilates works on placing many parts of the body back into optimal alignment, positioning you to re-develop your muscles in a new range of synergy. This sets the referred areas back into their rightful place and brings the full focus back to the faulty starting point, pre-trauma, for you to deal with.

It would be fair to say that there is no body without imbalance. Everything that you do leaves an imprint on your body. If you sit too long, you are imbalanced. If you play a sport which is dominant on one side, you are imbalanced; if you carry a child on your hip all day, you are imbalanced. If you have poor driving or sitting habits, imbalanced, you get the idea. We are all guilty of this unconscious patterning but prevention is better than cure, and the cost of health care to treat an injury would have you at least interested in how best to stay ahead of your game.

So how do we fix it?

Find balance. Don't get me wrong, I am a sloucher just like many of you. But I am working on the balance, so I have opted for a physioball at my desk instead of a traditional office chair, as it keeps me upright with my head over my torso, which activates my core muscles constantly. I am also keeping both feet in contact with the floor creating a tripod effect with my tailbone rooted downwards, this downward pull is in opposition to the position of my head and this small change in how I am sitting elongates my spine while I am working. I have raised the height of my computer so that I am forced to lift my eyes and my head over the shoulders and in line with my pelvis. A daily dose of Pilates practice keeps the small muscles that work synergistically through my body strong and promote a healthy distribution of force.

Like many other areas of learning, awareness is always the first point of entry to adopting the necessary change. Just notice throughout your day how you stand, sit, pick up loads, hold your head, and sleep. It all comes down to the ratio of hours spent moving badly and those where you are in correct form. The smallest changes in your most prevalent habits make the biggest impact on your recovery.

Training with Pilates to restore balance and alignment: Practising Pilates might be your greatest investment to keep your body out of rehab, physio and the operating theatre. Take a look at the options out there and commit to a practice no less than two times per week.

One Pilates exercise when done properly will give you more bang for your balance buck.

Supermans: think of an X sitting just behind your navel, lying face down on a mat, arms and legs outstretched, pull your body into the centre point of this X and then slowly lift the straight right arm off the floor, then the left. Lift the right leg until the thigh has lifted off the surface of the floor, then lower it and lift the left leg. Keeping the focus on the centre of the X, take the right arm and left leg up together; this is working on one line of the X. Then switch sides. Start slowly and gradually pick up the pace keeping the navel pulled up into the centre of the X. This is building balance and strength to the central axis of your body and you will notice a difference in your core strength.

The rest is up to you. Breaking habitual patterns can be hard because they are familiar to us, but they are a false comfort zone. Nothing positive can grow without a challenge and the body never really gets a vacation. Your choices don't have to be “the best”, just “better” for you to live freely without pain or discomfort. If you needed a reason to start Pilates, this is it; you won't regret it.

Selena DeLeon has been a personal and group fitness trainer for 16 years. She has a Pilates studio in Kingston called Core Fitness, where she helps people to move and live better. Its website is: www.corefitja.com

Most teens get stressed out by their families from time to time, but whether they bottle those emotions up or put a positive spin on things may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and how immune cells respond to bacterial invaders.

A recent study from Penn State researchers explored whether the strategies adolescents used to deal with chronic family stress affected various metabolic and immune processes in the body. Strategies could include cognitive reappraisal — trying to think of the stressor in a more positive way — and suppression, or inhibiting the expression of emotions in reaction to a stressor.

The team found that when faced with greater chronic family stress, teens who used cognitive reappraisal had better metabolic measures, like blood pressure and waist-to-hip ratio. Teens who were more likely to use suppression tended to have more inflammation when their immune cells were exposed to a bacterial stimulus in the lab, even in the presence of anti-inflammatory signals.

Hannah Schreier, assistant professor of biobehavioural health at Penn State, said the results suggest that the coping skills teens develop by the time they are adolescents have the potential to impact their health later in life.

“These changes are not something that will detrimentally impact anyone's health within a week or two, but that over years or decades could make a difference,” Schreier said. “That may be how small changes in metabolic or inflammatory outcomes may become associated with poorer health or a greater chance of developing a chronic disease later in life.”

Emily Jones, graduate student in biobehavioural health at Penn State, said the results — recently published in Psychosomatic Medicine — help therapists and counsellors better work with children and adolescents who live in stressful environments.

“Exposure to chronic stress doesn't always lead to poorer health outcomes, in part because of differences among people,” Jones said. “As our study findings suggest, there may be ways to help someone be more resilient in the face of stress by encouraging certain emotion regulation strategies. For children in stressful living situations, we can't always stop the stressors from happening, but we may be able to help youth deal with that stress.”

Although previous research has linked chronic stress during childhood with such conditions as depression, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease, the researchers said less is known about why some people under chronic stress develop these conditions while others do not. While it was thought that emotional regulation may play a role, the researchers were not sure exactly how.

To better explore how different ways of regulating emotions can affect different aspects of physical health, the researchers gathered data from 261 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 16 years.

The researchers interviewed the participants about the relationships and chronic stress within their families, as well as measured the participants' waist-to-hip ratios and blood pressure. The adolescents also completed questionnaires about how they regulated their emotions.

To measure immune function, the researchers took blood samples from each participant and exposed the blood to a bacterial stimulus — both with and without the anti-inflammatory substance hydrocortisone — to see how the immune cells would respond.

The researchers found that under conditions of greater chronic family stress, the immune cells of adolescents who were more likely to use suppression also tended to produce more pro-inflammatory cytokines —molecules that signal to other cells that there is a threat present and that the body's immune system needs to kick into gear.

The cells of these teens produced more cytokines even in the presence of hydrocortisone, an anti-inflammatory substance that usually tells the body to slow down on producing cytokines.

“Cytokines are like messengers that communicate to the rest of the body that added support is needed,” Jones said. “So when you have a high level of these pro-inflammatory cytokines, even in the presence of anti-inflammatory messages from cortisol, it may suggest that your body is mounting an excessive inflammatory response, more so than necessary. It suggests that the immune system may not be functioning as it should be.”

Meanwhile, the researchers found that adolescents who tended to use cognitive reappraisal while under more family stress had smaller waist-to-hip ratios — a measurement used as an indicator of health and chronic disease risk — and lower blood pressure.

“While we would have to follow up with more studies, the results could lend support to the idea that reappraising a situation during times of stress could be beneficial,” Jones said. “For a mild stressor, this could be as simple as reframing a bad situation by thinking about it as a challenge or an opportunity for growth.”

The researchers added that opportunities for future studies could include looking at the effects of emotion regulation strategies on these metabolic and immune measures over time, to tease apart how the family environment shapes emotion regulation, how emotion regulation may itself influence stress exposure, and how chronic family stress and emotion regulation together can affect chronic disease risk in the long run.


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