Chronic stress can be damaging to our bodies. It can affect respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive and even reproductive systems. But did you know that chronic stress also impacts the musculoskeletal system?
– The mechanism of stress in pain –
When stressful situations arise, the body’s response is to go into a ‘flight, fight response to protect itself against harm or injury. Physically this can be seen through tightening and spasming of muscles. This is an automatic reflex response, where the muscle tension will generally ease once the stressful situation has passed.
Why does the muscle still remain in spasm after the stress has gone?
Sometimes in the case of ongoing chronic stress, the body may have set into a cycle of pain even after the painful stimulus or stress has gone. It protects itself by staying in pain and so when stress arises again the body is already ‘protected’.
This can lead to a range of conditions such as:
Movement dysfunction – Restriction and pain on normal daily activities
Muscular spasm and muscle weakness
Headaches, migraines and Jaw pain
Neck, back and shoulder pain
The pain cycle can lead to further negative patterns
For example, fear avoidance is where a person with chronic stress and pain will start avoiding more and more things to try and stop triggering pain or stress, even though these activities may not be related. This in turn usually decreases physical activity, increases low mood and leads to further patterns around pain. This will continue in a downward spiral until something breaks the cycle.
– How to relieve pain related to stress –
The earlier we assess and treat when the body is stressed both physically and mentally, the less likely the body will get into a pain cycle. Early intervention is key!
Stopping the pain progression
If your pain has lasted more than 6 months, seek the advice of your health care professional. This is to make sure you don’t need a scan, a specialist referral or medication to help break the pain cycle.
During your consultation an assessment will be performed through movement and orthopaedic test. The key is to find out what is going on so we can offer better treatment and management advice. Often during the movement testing we discover something that can help you at home.
If a helpful, pain relieving movement is found, we will explain the what’s going on so you better understand your pain. Its really empowering! If we don’t find a movement that helps we will move on to some treatment.
Treatment can include Massage, Dry Needling, Joint Mobilisation and Cupping to name a few. As Clinical Myotherapists we have a wide range of tools in our tool kit we can draw upon. This step is about assisting the movement therapy further by reducing pain and increasing movement. Oftentimes we can get more out of the movement therapy after treatment intervention.
Lastly a Remedy Routine is given to you which outlines what you will continue doing to get out of pain. It will detail your movement therapy and may include stretches and strengthening but usually that comes a bit later. We will stay in touch via email to closely monitor progression and follow up in about a week initially to stay ahead of your pain cycle and progress your remedy routine.
– Stress reduction –
Stress reduction is an important part of reducing your pain. Things that can help reduce stress include exercise, meditation or mindfulness and talking about your problems with a friend. Sometimes the help of a Counsellor or Psychologist to learn new coping strategies or CBT for example can be very helpful.
Article by Dwan Rosairo & Sarah Hall (BHSc – Clinical Myotherapy) – If you’d like to chat, click here to book a free 15 minute consultation or book a full consult here.
Here in Australia gyms, Pilates Studios and Personal Trainers are starting to open again post our COVID-19 hibernation. I’m sure you’ve already seen plenty of posts and blogs telling you to go slow in getting back into it to avoid injury and to avoid early burn out but we think this is such a valuable time to make some meaningful SMART goals to really set you up for success, a positive mindset and ultimately a great end to the year! Read on to find out what a SMART goal entails, what the readiness to change stages are and a step by step of how to start putting your goal together.
What is a SMART Goal?
A SMART goal is an acronym to assist in making a goal. It stands for:
S – Specific. Make your goal specific and narrow with numbers and real deadlines.
M– Measurable. Make sure your goal is trackable. Decide how you are going to track your progress and reevaluate when necessary.
A – Achievable. Work towards a goal that is challenging but possible. Make sure to consider your deadline when considering whether your goal is achievable.
R – Relevant and Resonant. Make sure your goal is relevant to your values and any larger objective you have in mind. Make sure it resonates and excites you!
T – Time-based. Give yourself a deadline. Make sure it is realistic but ambitious to motivate you and help you prioritise.
A SMART goal differs from setting a broad goal by giving a comprehensive vision of what your goal looks like and gives you something to action straight away.
Consider your readiness to change…
Before you start jumping into your goal setting, consider where you are at on the “Readiness to Change Scale”. If you are a beginner, your first goal might simply be to try a few different personal trainers for example. This would be the preparation phase. Here’s the full scale so you can identify where you are at specific to the goal you have in mind.
You are likely considering a change but you occasionally catch yourself saying “Do I really need to…?” You are likely in denial. Try asking someone close to you, who you know will be honest with you. An ideal gym goal for someone who is in the pre-contemplation stage might be “I will do some research on the benefits of regular exercise”.
At this stage, you know you want to make a change but you haven’t worked out anything beyond this such as barriers (time, cost, fear, etc…). A good goal for this stage might be “I will research some of the gyms and personal trainers in the area” and a seperate goal for this stage might be “I will work out who I’m going to ask to be my support person in helping me achieve this goal”.
You are likely now prepared to try a few things. You’ve mentally overcome your barriers and now you are ready for a small, achievable goal. A ideal goal at this stage might be “I will book in a personal training session with X” and “I will try that class that my friend recommended”. Remember at this stage you are just having a taste to see what you like and what might suit your lifestyle, budget etc…
This is the stage where you take definitive action towards a change. This might be joining the gym, committing to a 10 class pass at yoga or signing on with a new personal trainer. The goal at this stage might look like “This week after yoga class I am going to buy the 10 week set”.
At this stage you have been taking action consistently. You now feel ready to work on maintaining the new behaviour over the long term or making the goal a bit more challenging. A good goal for this phase might be “I am going to buy the annual pass to yoga and commit to 2 classes each week”.
How to write your SMART goal.
1. Write down your big picture goal
This is the thing that really moves you and excites you! For example – “I will drop a dress size by the end of the year as we are going on a beach holiday!“
2. Write down the first step you need to make in order to achieve your goal
This will become your SMART goal. This is also the time to consider your stage of readiness to change. Example – “I will increase my personal training sessions to 2x per week” This person seems to be in the action stage but may also be in the maintenance phase.
3. Expand the first step to achieving your goal into the SMART acronym
Specific. Example – “I will do Personal Training on Mondays and Thursdays from 7am – 7:45am starting next week”. Notice the Specific included where it would be done, dates and times and how long it would be done for on each occasion.
Measurable Example – “I will cross off the days on a calendar each time I go to Personal Training so I can see my attendance progress. I will get the Personal Trainer to help track my physical progress by measuring me once a month”. For a goal to be measurable you need to come up with something that will be different when you’re finished, something to let you know you’ve completed your goal.
Achievable Example – “I have already been going to Personal Training once a week regularly for over a year so I feel I can easily add one more session in per week.”To effectively ask yourself if this goal is achievable you need to reconsider what stage of readiness to change you are at surrounding this goal. As noted above this example is at the action stage.
Relevant and Resonant. Check back to your bigger goal. Is this smart goal really in alignment with what you are trying to achieve? Is it in alignment with your values? Great! Now make sure it resonates. If not already, change it to a powerful “I am” styled statement. Imagine when this goal is complete; does it make you want to cheers and high five? Example “I am so excited to go to Personal Training twice per week on Mondays and Thursdays from 7am – 7:45am as I know it is helping me to achieve my bikini body!”
Timely. Example – “My deadline is Thursday the 19th of November 2020 when I will have my final measurements taken and reward myself after training with buying a new bikini for the holiday!” Write down the exact date and time of the deadline for completion for this goal.
Now you have your goal, congratulations!
4. Next write your goal down with you’re favourite pen on your favourite paper and stick it up all over the place!
Put one on the bathroom mirror, one near the kettle, one in the bedroom where you will see it when you wake up. Ideally stick your goals up in 5 different places. You can have more than 1 goal on each piece of paper but your main or most important goal should stand out the most or be at the top. I use photo paper with a felt tip pin so it stands out and that way I can use different inspiring colours as well. Once you feel like that goal is a reality or you have moved into a different stage of the “readiness to change”, make sure you update your goal by going through the same process.
I hope you take the time to use this approach and that you get as much out of it as we do. We use this a lot around MyoThrive. If you get stuck try searching google images for SMART goals sometimes there are worksheets available that lay it out and all you have to do is fill in the blanks. If you’ve never made a goal before or would love to learn more check out this article. It was a really good read about setting goals. If you’re working on something specific feel free to bring it along to your next Myotherapy session and we can spend the first 5 minutes on it. Click here to find a time that suits you best.
The things your plan and focus your energy on always come into fruition because they are achievable, actionable goals that you truely desire!
If you’ve been following the blog you may remember from a previous post that this year I gave myself a goal to go sugar free for a whole year. Well the winter months were not my friend, I struggled a lot through the winter and the no sugar idea completely went out the window! Spring is here now and I’m super keen to get off the sugar again, maybe I can last longer this time with a few tricks up my sleeve. A patient last night gave me a great idea for a snack and I want to share it, because it is amazing! I felt so good when I wasn’t consuming sugary foods so fingers crossed I get back into it. If going off sugar all together doesn’t sound that appealing or achievable to you, you can still use these tips to cut back, hope they help.
1. Don’t buy it, don’t have it in the house!
This sounds simple in theory, but if you’re brain works anything like mine, you’ll convince yourself of some reasons why you have to have it in the house. For example “it’s for guests”, “it’s for the kids”, or “my husband shouldn’t suffer because of me”, something along those lines. Don’t listen! You know you will most likely be the one to eat the rest of the block of chocolate, the packet of biscuits or the cake that was for the visitors that no one else touched.
2. Have healthy snack alternatives
Meals are generally the easy part. We can eat eggs, vegetables, meats, fish and so on. Snacks on the other hand can be a bit trickier especially at night and the trick is not to over do the fruit otherwise that leads to a craving of the hard sugar stuff and then you’re right back at square one. Snacks I usually have in the house are activated nuts such as walnuts, macadamias, almonds and hazelnuts. I like a variety of nuts to keep it interesting. Rice crackers and fresh avocado is another snack I often reach for to satisfy a sugar craving. Often a sugar craving is actually a cry out for healthy fats so avocado is a good one for that. My patient last night had a great idea, and they are yummy. Buy a bunch of red grapes and put them in the freezer, once frozen they taste like mini sorbet, they are delicious!
3. Prepare mentally in advance for tough situations
There are always going to be tough situations that crop up. For example, an event or party, or even a simple coffee catch up with a friend who you know loves something sweet with her coffee. As long as you prepare mentally in advance you will come out on top. Take a deep breath before entering the situation and repeat your motto silently to yourself such as “If my friend want’s cake I’ll have another coffee”, “If there’s dessert tonight I will ask for a peppermint tea instead”. These little mantras can save you at crunch time when your friend, family member or waiter asks what you would like. The next step is having a little saying for your friend or family member. You don’t have to tell them you’re trying to cut back sugar if you don’t want to, you could simply say, I don’t want dessert today, or I feel like a peppermint tea instead. They can’t argue with what you want!
If you have some tips of your own we would love you to share!
Anyone been watching Le Tour de France? I know Daniel (one of our friendly Myotherapists) has been pulling all-nighters to watch the live action. I think he is crazy, I’m just as happy with the video updates! My Dad does it too, I’m sure there’s lots of avid Tour de France watchers out there currently sleep deprived wondering what I am on about! Well today’s blog is for you, it’s also for the parents whose children aren’t sleeping through the night, people who are woken by some kind of pain in the night and then can’t get back to sleep, women going through menopause who are woken with hot flashes, pregnant women having to get up to go to the toilet for the hundredth time, insomniacs, midnight foodies and so on…
Sleep deprivation is a serious thing. I need at least 7 hours in the summer and 8 hours in the winter! Everyone is different with how much sleep they need, some only need as little as 5 to be a functioning humanoid and others need 9 hours all year round! Recently a lot of research has been circulating as to the importance of sleep and what it does for our brains, our immune systems, our bodies ability to repair and so on but it is a fact of life that from time to time we can end up with a bit of ‘sleep debt’ so here are my top 3 tips for surviving!
You can call this a mini-nap or nana-nap if you prefer. It’s not the name that counts so don’t get too hung up on the word meditation. If you have only been able to get a few hours sleep before your day begins and a full days work is ahead a 5 min power-
Click here for more on mindfulness meditation
nap or meditation session will do you the world of good to get through the day. I have recently read about some high performing CEO’s that do this all the time! Start with 5 minutes as the car warms up or on the train (set an alarm in case you fall asleep!), take another 5 at morning tea, take 10 minutes at lunch if you can, another 5 as you again ride the train home or warm the car up to head home, another 5 minutes before or after dinner perhaps; before you know it you will have added 30 minutes of rest into your day; you will be amazed at how much better it makes you feel, and how much more productive you will be at work! I use the app ‘HeadSpace’ which has single 5 minute and 10 minute sessions you can have a go at, there are lots of great free audios you can get online and have ready to go on your phone or ipod as well. Also once your sleep deprivation has ended, remember to pay back your sleep debt with a few early nights!
There are a few things to mention around mindfulness and before we get too far into the topic, again if you prefer we can call it observing, paying attention, taking a chill-pill; whatever you want to call it is fine with me! When we are sleep deprived we can tend to get a little short with those around us. Our loved ones usually cop the brunt of it but co-workers, co-commuters and baristas can all be on the end of the shorter fuse. If you feel frustration starting to erupt, try to remind yourself it’s just the lack of sleep taking over your brain and emotions; and instead, take a deep breath and observe your surrounding more closely. You might pick up that the coffee shop is short staffed or that your co-worker has also been watching the race and therefore is also sleep deprived! Just noticing these things can be enough to switch your mood back to your happy smiley self! One more thing to mention around mindfulness…try not to pile on yourself when you are sleep deprived. Try to do one task at a time, don’t even check Facebook or Instagram, no multitasking allowed! It will make your day go much more smoothly!
Increase Immune Boosting Foods
This time of year there are lots of bugs around and sleep deprivation can make you more vulnerable to catching them so make sure you increase your intake of foods high in nutrients, anti-microbial herbs and so on. It is also a good idea to avoid sugar, alcohol & too much caffeine because they do the opposite – they lower your immune system and leave you more vulnerable. Enjoy loads of vegetables, adequate protein, healthy fats, fresh water, herbs such as turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger
Click here for Cauliflower & Fennel Soup Recipe
and cinnamon! If you’re thinking of grabbing a third coffee, try a Crio Bru (ground cacao beans brewed like coffee also has anti-bacterial properties and is high in magnesium among loads of other benefits) or a matcha green tea instead. A bulletproof coffee in the morning can give you more sustained energy until lunch time as well. Prepare meals ahead of time or keep it simple; simple meals can be yummy too and only take around 10 minutes to throw together, if you need some tips, let me know!
I hope you enjoy the rest of Le Tour de France if that’s been the cause of your sleep deprivation lately. If you decide to increase your bike riding or tackle a race such as Around The Bay or The Great Victorian Bike Ride Myotherapy is great for combating injuries or niggles and can help with pre and post race too. If you’d like to have your bike fitting looked at, make sure you book with Daniel on Saturdays and bring your bike along, obviously! Take care everyone, and as usual if you have any questions please comment or write me a personal email at [email protected]
If you haven’t already heard of it, mindfulness is the practice of directing your attention to the inner and outer experiences occurring in the present moment. A popular way to do this is through guided mindfulness meditations such as smiling mind, headspace, imindfulness and mindfulness daily just to name a few.
Many of these services are available through app stores and online if you’d like to give one a go. I am trialing headspace at the moment which I am really enjoying. I’ve given some of the others a go in the past but for whatever reason I didn’t end up sticking to it. What I am really liking about headspace is I only have to do 10 minutes a day, the voice is easy to listen to and there is a new track each day so it keeps me wanting to go back and do the next session because I know I’m not going to get bored!
I should mention before moving on that my intention here is not to plug headspace and in no way am I affiliated with them! My purpose for bringing up mindfulness is that there is a lot of talk around whether it might be able to help reduce chronic pain.
There have been studies on chronic low back pain, pain from cancer, pain from autoimmune conditions, fibromyalgia and so on. If you look at these studies individually some of them conclude that mindfulness can help reduce people’s pain however when you look at them collectively the jury is still out. Most of the systematic reviews (a process where you analyse the scientific data of many different studies on the same topic) agree that it can help the person to deal with the pain more effectively but there is not as much evidence to support actual pain reduction. More study in this area is needed. I’d love to see a good quality study comparing mindfulness to exercise for pain reduction, for example.
All that being said just because it doesn’t work for some people it does not mean it won’t work for you, so why not test it out for yourself? Firstly write down your current pain and put it away somewhere safe. Next try one of the mindfulness meditation apps for a month or 2 and finally write your new pain down then go find the old pain note and see if it made any difference. Make sure you set an alarm in your phone or write the day for retest in your calendar.
Although the research doesn’t wholeheartedly support mindfulness for pain reduction, there is stronger evidence supporting mindfulness for anxiety and depression. So if you suffer from either of these conditions it is definitely worth giving a go. And if you have any pain that is associated with your anxiety or depression then by extension you may be a stronger candidate for mindfulness working to reduce your pain.
Now to paint you a mindfulness meditation picture. When I do my headspace mindfulness I sit in a comfortable chair and press play for that days session. It instructs me to start with some breathing, in through the nose, out through the mouth. It then tells me to gently close my eyes, begin breathing normally through the nose and start to notice noises around me, to let them come to me and observe. Next I am instructed to scan my body, and just to notice, not to try to change anything. Then to count my breathing; starting with 1 on the in breath, 2 on the out breath and to only go up to 10 then repeat. Before I know it I am feeling all spacey and relaxed. It has lots of silences too, so you can simply enjoy the exercises. Time passes quickly and before I know it, I’m brought back into the room and asked to open my eyes when I’m ready. All refreshed and ready for the rest of my day!
As much as I am loving headspace, this is just one app and I encourage you to try a few out to see what you like best. Particularly the voice, you have to like to voice or you probably won’t get the most out of it. One last thought, something I touched on in last weeks article – habit formation. If you are going to give mindfulness meditation a go, try to make it a habit and do it daily for at least a couple of months to discover the benefits. Research shows habits tend to stick better when we do them first thing in the morning, something to keep in mind when you are deciding when to start your new mindfulness journey! I do my meditation straight after lunch each day because I find it’s a good refresher to get going for my afternoon, so really in the end, it’s finding what works for you.
I would love to hear from you about your experiences with this. Feel free to comment here, email me or chat with me at your next Myotherapy or Pilates session!