About Pain Recovery

Click on the questions below for expanded answers.

+ What are the greatest misconceptions about pain recovery?

Here are four common misconceptions, which I’ll call out as: (1) I just need to get through this flare-up…; (2) I can stretch it better; (3) Pain is all in your head; and (4) All rest is created equal.

1. I just need to get through this flare-up….

If you’ve said this in the past, you’re probably seeing now that “powering through” or waiting for the flare up to subside on its own is no longer working well for you. There is a more helpful approach. You do not need to tough it out and suffer through pain or flare cycles.

When we work together, we talk about pain or questionable sensations. I ask a lot of questions and listen to you telling me: What does it feel like... Clenching? Zingy? Achy? Electrical? Stabbing? Sharp? Tight? Changing?... You will be able to hone your sensing skills, as thinking about pain is not the same as sensing pain. It’s important to listen to imminent warnings, and also to learn the nuances that help untangle the pain puzzle.

I will guide you to distinguish between pain and other intense sensations in the body as you begin to refine your body-sensing abilities and start healing. When you feel that tug or ache, you will be able to know what to do and what not to do. That slight pull in your back or neck or shoulder becomes a signal and reminder that it’s time for a short stint of breath retraining and relaxation. You’ll be able to test out new behaviors and find ways to maximize relief and prevent future pain.

2. I can "stretch it better."

I hear this a lot: “I just need to learn a few stretches.” Maybe. But have you noticed that same tight, sore or stuck spot keeps coming back? Stretching can feel great and provide temporary relief, and then argh! there’s that tightness again. "You can’t stretch it better," a wise teacher told me. Tightness often points out weakness. So we’ll go to a combo: A strength sandwich! We stretch/soften— then strengthen! and stabilize— then stretch/soften again. This soft-strong-soft way of moving is called "proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation," or PNF, but I won’t ask you to remember that unless you want to.

I want to add that the "better" that we are stretching toward is meaningful. Freedom from physical pain is wonderful. Your pain recovery will highlight your personal intentions and look at many dimensions of being, not only the physical stretch or strengthening. I'm talking about not only the body's recovery but other life arenas where you'll be able to re-balance stability, strength, softness, and ease.

3. Pain is all in your head.

If this were true, we could pretend pain away and go ahead with powering through. Pain is not something that you’re making up. Your head (meaning your mind, and not just your body) is involved in the sense that we know pain can persist long after original injury has healed. And pain and pain recovery are also neurological, meaning that this is about the nervous system. The good news is that we can work with fear or anxious anticipation of pain. Movement and breathing, as well as body sensing and conscious relaxation, can help with nervous system reset. You need an approach to pain recovery that understands this, and turns it to your advantage.

Recovery from intense or ongoing pain begins by starting anew, and learning simple tools that let you be at rest and then sense, in a more helpful and nuanced way, the signals your body is giving. This is how to begin to untangle the pain puzzle that’s had you vexed. And untangling the puzzle is how you make headway into recovery.

4. All rest is created equal.

Rest does not solely equal sleep, although sleep is non-negotiably an essential way we refresh mind and body, with compelling research giving evidence of sleep’s role in all aspects of illness and wellness. In yoga therapy, there are levels and flavors of rest, and you’ll be able to become better at actively resting (and sleeping).

We can learn to heed the body’s messages and create a developmental process that backs up to basics— to begin within your pain-free range, find a comfortable resting position, and practice conscious relaxation. Then we gradually increase confidence and capability and appropriate effort rather than pushing through into pain. It's not about slacking off but finding a steady, strong determination. This may challenge you and change you.

+ I need to "strengthen my core," can I do that with you?

Yes, although it won't look like crunches. We'll create a confident core, work with the "deep front line" to strengthen the deepest layer of stabilizing and abdominal muscles from the inside out, and to address the fascial connections from the inner arches of your feet to your low back. Low and slow is the way to go with developmental breath and movement. You'll be able to find a stronger center and build inner presence and strength.

+ Can you fix my pain?

I don't like to promise that we will "fix" pain, yet often relief is possible. We explore, to see what works to ease, address, and when possible prevent pain. In some cases, we may not "get rid of it" entirely (though minimizing it is our goal) and our stealth (or direct) agenda is about changing how we relate to pain: away from reactivity and toward response.

I'm thinking of one person I worked with, in particular: He came to me with chronic back pain and risk of further spinal injury that kept him from lifting his toddler. We created a short, therapeutic, morning movement and breath practice for him. He does it daily, and has less pain. On some days, none. Not only is he now lifting his kid but is also returning to loved activities like surfing. He knows more about how to move and what will keep him moving safely without pain. Check out my Testimonials.

We each have the ability to heal by drawing on resilience, persistent self-care, and finding energy for what matters.

+ I see you work with "dads with back pain." Is The RE/ST Method especially for men and/or parents?

If you're ready to address your pain, my approach is good for you and now is a good time. I believe that it is a great time for everyone, and especially men, to write a new story. To re-narrate and change how we meet pain and suffering.

This approach benefits all genders, though after years of work with pain recovery I see differences in what comes up for cis men who have chronic pain. While it’s a generalization, I've seen this often enough to know, as we’re all gender-socialized, that it's worth exploring.

Many women I've seen for chronic pain have sought support from partners, friends, professionals. This is less often true with men who tend to be socialized to "man up" or "take it like a man." Men may not have talked to anyone, or perhaps only a partner, about being in pain. The trigger to open up often is a dip in their performance, professional and/or personal, or the threat of medical intervention.

I enjoy working with men. Especially dads (really all parents) with pain, because you are so motivated to be able to care for and play with your families! And also anyone who works hard in a "provider role," or as an accomplished professional, and who wants life balance and to be at their best. Also, the 1:1 format works well if you don't want to be in a group class and don’t get a lot of alone time outside of the pressure and joys of work and family.