Teachers, do you have clients that struggle with pain, after the injury should be healed and wonder Why?

It’s a signal from the brain. It’s connected to our emotions and the stress mechanisms in our body. As Pilates teachers we know movement can heal the body; however, sometimes, movements aren’t enough and we need to examine the mind body and spirit as a whole.

Joe Tatta wrote an excellent book called Heal your Pain NOW – This book discusses: 1)how to being healing pain, 2)how nutrition can heal pain, 3) how movement can heal pain, and 4) how mindset can heal pain. All of it is great information, however, for the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on:

  1. What is Pain?

2. How emotions and mindset can affect pain.

3. How to help your clients re-pattern their brains in movements of perceived pain.

What is pain?
After an injury or accident, the body begins to heal. “There are three phases to healing: inflammation (3-7 days), repair (2-6 weeks), and remodeling (3-6 months). ” If the client is still feeling pain and the injury has healed, the pattern is in the brain.

While your brain has amazing capacities for adaption and growth, it takes into account many different factors when deciding to create a pain response— and all of these signals have an impact on its decision and interfere with neuroplasticity. For example, during your pain experience, your brain also receives information connected to that experience, such as your thoughts, memories, movements, sensations, emotions, sights, smells, and so on. All of these factors have an influence on your brain’s decision to create pain… For example, if you often have negative thoughts or are consumed by fear, anger, and guilt, your brain will continue to create a create pain response long after your initial injury.
Joe Tatta, page 31

“Central sensitization is a heightened sensitivity to pain…pain with things that are normally not painful and when perceived pain is actually more painful that it should be.” Tatta, pg. 31. Pain does not equal hurt. That is a mind pattern.

Tatta goes on to discuss: other questions the mind is constantly asking:

“Am I being attacked? “
“Am I being supported?”

If we as teachers look at the root of these questions, the teaching environment should be set up with trust and understanding. The client needs to feel supported, emotionally, through movement, and most importantly encouraged.

Class environment, positive body cuing, support with the bio-mechanics, playful joyful exercises that creates full body and expressive movement is what we can contribute to facilitating a client with pain.

How emotions and mindset can affect pain.

The client’s responsibility is to dig deep into the body’s emotional response (stress) and mindset to heal.

I particularly felt very connected with the passage on Forgiveness.

Forgiveness requires you to be willing to let go of resentment and negative judgment towards the people or events out of offended or injured you and instead compassion and generosity in life… Forgiveness can be beneficial for people who have suffered from accidents and injuries or who have chronic diseases a cope persistent pain. It can be especially helpful because those who demonstrate higher levels of forgiveness may have more energy available for the recovery, rather than allowing stress, anger, fear and guilt to consume their every thought.
A 2012 study in Disability and Rehabilitation examined and how forgiveness affected patients in an outpatient physical therapy center. Forgiveness of self was one of the most important factors more than forgiving others. According to the study those who were able to forgive themselves had a higher level of healthy behaviors, resulting in better overall physical health and reduce pain. Interestingly the study found the participants had a much harder time forgiving themselves and other people.
For those on a spiritual pathway know the importance of forgiveness. For many forgiveness is a sense of peace that opens up space in the mind that can be cluttered with grievances.
Tatta, pg. 240

I spoke about body positivity in my last blog. A client’s beliefs will effect how they move. It shapes everything. I believe self-forgiveness is a key to unlocking stuck emotions and creating a positive relationship to one’s body.

How to help your clients re-pattern their brains in movements of perceived pain.

According to Tatta he states, “Graded Motor Imagery, meaning you set a baseline and you progressively and steadily work towards your goal.” It creates a baseline that guides on how you can work the area of pain without flaring up the pain signal. Then each day doing a little bit more.

Graded Movement Therapy
1. Left-right discrimination- the ability to identify the body part as left and right.
2. Explicitly motor imagery- Watching or imagining a body part in a specific motion or position.
3. Mirror therapy – If you were to put your left had behind the mirror and right hand in front, you can trick your brain into believing the reflection of your right hand in the mirror is your left.
Tatta, pg. 233

Alright teachers, I can speak from experience that I have many clients that have a hard time of differentiation left from right and we have to use unilateral exercises to work on those brain patterns. Coordination and differentiation can be used to make a variation in numerous classical exercises. Using a layered approach helps the client progress.

I have also used visualization cues to teach the movement especially since I do not show every exercise. I paint the movement phrase with words and sound.

As for mirror therapy, I have not yet experienced this yet and I am interested in trying this out.

Finally, mindset and beliefs – our thought patterns affect how we feel. Tatta discusses the power of meditation. Which I have discussed in previous blogs.

This blog was written to give you an short overview about pain and how to help your clients start to heal in their mind. I highly recommend reading more about the pain, stress, emotion, movement, nutritional factors that can positivity influence holistic healing.

Dysfunctional movement patterns can also cause pain which Pilates exercises, fascia release, fascia unwinding, and tactile cuing can help with. I have small group sessions coming in 2021 for teachers to understand the fascia system. If you are interested please email me.

How do you help your clients confront pain?