A primer on persistent pain, Pt.1: Why you won’t stretch your pain away

Physical pain is a funny thing. Sometimes pain makes sense, like if we fall or get a slap of a hurl across the shins. Other times it doesn’t make sense, at least not in the conventional sense that we think about it. We intuitively understand acute pain, but less so persistent pain or chronic pain as it is commonly known. The two can be differentiated by the time scale involved. A common marker of persistent pain is that which still remains 3 to 6 months since the onset, while some clinicians will extend that somewhat arbitrary point to a year. Either way, we are dealing with pain that hangs around for longer than it should. Here is a good definition of persistent pain: Pain that is often (but not always) elicited by an injury but worsened by factors removed from the original cause, usually lasts a long time, interferes with daily function, and is not explained by underlying pathology. Biomedical intervention is frequently sought and rarely effective (Turk & Okifuji, 2010) The burden of persistent pain is wide-scale, estimated to affect 1.5 billion people worldwide, with studies putting the prevalence point in Ireland and the UK Ireland at one third to one half of the population. Low back pain is so ubiquitous that everyone will have either suffered personally from it or will know someone close who has. It is not, however, exclusive to the low back and can present itself anywhere in the body. Pain is a complex topic, with a myriad of potentially contributing factors. In order to resolve persistent pain, it is important to understand what...

30-Day Yoga Experience

By Connie Steinbock This is a brief overview of my recent 30 day Yoga experience. We would love to hear what experiences you have made! Why a 30 day Yoga experience? I used to work in a typical 9 to 5 office job in London. My typical day would start in a rush to catch my bus and then squeeze myself on the overcrowded and hot underground to commute to the office located in always busy central London. My colleagues and I would then sit on our desks for hours with a maximum of an hour break which we might use for a little walk around the office blocks – or not. I would often feel imbalanced after such a day – mentally tired and stressed while physically stiff and restless. Going to the gym and movement practice in the morning helped against the stiffness but didn’t really benefit me mentally. The busy local gym actually stressed me out even more. In Summer long walks, movement and meditation in the park were a great balance to the busy office day. However, in Winter this was no real option as parks were closed before I would leave the office. I needed to tackle this feeling of imbalance and remembered the positive effect of some Yoga lessons I had attended when I was a teenager. These were great thanks to a wonderful teacher who taught me about Yoga meditation, breathing, as well as basic poses and ways to stabilise my body (sometimes activating the right point can make a huge difference). Yoga is ideal to find your personal balance as the practice...

We all want our athletes strong…but what is strong?

Strength is a great way to bulletproof against injuries in sport. Get your athletes stronger and you help them develop resiliency and robustness. This make intuitive sense (stronger= less likely to break), and research indeed seems to back this up. But is there more to this equation than just “get them strong”? I am definitely in the camp of keeping training systems simple, and always a bit suspicious about the motives behind making things sound complicated. But as the saying goes; Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. The early-2000’s brought in the functional training era of Strength and Conditioning, where athlete’s followed a physical therapy model and spent all their time getting ‘functional’ and forgot to get strong. A training program with 20 different exercises, unstable surfaces, cable machines, and focusing really really hard on getting the TA and multifidus firing. Then in the late-2000’s the pendulum swung towards the opposite extreme; lifting heavy weights and getting strong. Training programs had little variety, and focused on the Power lifts and a few sets of plank. This is what most of my physical preparation for hurling looked like when I was in college, along with some Olympic lifts. I focused on the numbers and on how much weight I could shift off the ground, off my chest, pull up, or squat with on my back. I definitely got stronger, but the harder I trained in the gym the more I broke down on the field. The extra strength and size may have been somewhat useful but my balance and coordination was poor, and I wasn’t very explosive....

Saturday Movement

Here is a little movement session that I did today. Having not trained in a while, the aim of this low-intensity session was to just re-connect with the body and get going again. My current training goals are primarily to get back to pain free movement, working through hip and shoulder issues; so mobility training has been the main focus of my recent efforts. As well as working on the soft core, or inner unit as Paul Chek calls it. I actually spent longer on the Prep part of the session, around 35 mins, working on mobility and control: The squat hip rotations are from Ido Portal’s Squat Clinic. I used 6 adjustable Smart Hurdles for the over-unders, which my hips are really enjoying. Working on range of motion and control. I have been dropping in the Jefferson Curl every now and again to load the spine in flexion. I used a barbell @ 30kg, standing on a plyo box. Great stretch in the hamstrings too. Inspired by Gymnastic Bodies’ Coach Sommers who is a big fan of this movement. I used a broom with a 2.5kg plate in the middle, lying prone on the floor. Rolling Patterns are some of the foundational movements of the FMS corrective system for the soft core, described as a low threshold strategy that depicts asymmetries and deficiencies in a primitive pattern. I focused on not forcing the movement and not letting the lower body contribute to the roll. The Cossack Flow is an FRC movement. It was challenging to keep the movement fluid and really challenged my hip mobility. I chose four bodyweight strengthening/core movements and spent about 25 minutes rotating through them in...

Physical development of the young athlete: Doing it right

If you could turn back the clock and begin your athletic journey again, what would you do differently? This is a question I often ask myself, and the more I learn and experience as a coach in the physical development of young athletes, the more apparent the answer the becomes: a lot. My current journey is one of restoring my body back to pain-free movement after years out of sport with injuries and surgeries, with an increasing appreciation for the complexity of the human body. There is a lot to consider; the nervous system, somatosensory and circulatory system all working together to help restore quality function to the musculoskeletal structures, while resisting the conventional model of compartmentalizing the body into muscles and isolated actions. The body always finds a way to work around restrictions in joints and tissue, until it is eventually unable to positively adapt to the inefficient stressors causing mechanical failure, and pain joins the party. But what causes these compensatory and patterns non-traumatic symptoms in the first place? Why is there a pandemic of hip and knee injuries in the young GAA playing population? You won’t get a straight answer for these questions with a Google search but they are certainly worth investigating, some other time. For now, we can agree that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. While I don’t have all the answers on how to get out of pain, taking a look back at my training practices over the years and what was missing, based on what we know now, might shed some light on the matter. If...

What’s the Hot Fuss with Bikram Yoga?

Yoga has always piqued my interest as a potentially useful tool to help unwind years of unyielding stiffness and poor mobility. Although modern yoga is not a complete movement practice, any method of training that has survived for thousands of years and is used by many of the world’s best movers has something going for it in my book. The use of heat for the purpose of improving health is also centuries old, with a strong tradition of Sauna in the Nordic countries and Germany. Rhonda Patrick, a PhD in biomedical science, is a strong proponent of hyperthermic conditioning (sauna) for improved endurance, increasing muscle mass and formation of new brain cells, amongst other things. In this report she cites 37 studies to back up her claims that sauna is good for us. With these things in mind, and with the increasing popularity of Bikram yoga, Sara and I decided to give it a go last week. Of course, it is usually unfair and impossible to judge a particular method after only one attempt. So, this blog is in no way a definitive judgement of Bikram yoga, rather, my thoughts after the first experience. Read on to find out if it was also my last.   The Script As we took our place in 40 degree room, with the instructor standing on her podium at the top of the room, it didn’t take long to realize that the whole session was an ad-verbatim recital of a Bikram yoga script. It turns out that the script is standardized and instructors are told not to deviate from it, which made me feel like we were...