I had read in Outside magazine about this stuff called Astanga yoga, which wasn't no sissy-man stuff, it was hard, man, and even the hardcore weightlifters at the author's gym got wo' out doing it. Always looking to add to or improve my own training, I got the book.
I gave my copy to the library a few years ago, so I can't quote from it, but there were a couple elements that got my Spider-senses tingling. First, the author's smug and cloying tone got my brain itching right off the bat. The main thing was, her co-author claimed that he had this catastrophic injury (to his back, I think, I could look it up, but I left all my care out in the car, and I'm not going to get it), then he started yoga, and two months later, he was swimming in the surf of Hawaii.
Don't think so. Certainly not as a general rule, or a repeatable treatment. The yoga may have helped, may have been integral to his recovery, even, but just Add Astanga, and everything's cool? Nuh-uh.
Let me repeat here, I'm not picking on yoga, and I love the beautiful and accomplished teachers at Charleston Power Yoga, and taking their classes. I object to the idea of any single modality, especially dispensed without modification, fixing a physical problem, just sweeping away all the bad stuff the way bleach will kill any germ or cootie you have on the countertop.
And I've seen this 'bleach' claim for any number of disciplines, including Chinese Medicine, strength training, massage, soft tissue manipulation, various types of stretching....yep, all the stuff I do here at Body Architects. Well, damn, what's your point, then, Stephen Clipp?
Well, after I'd been a trainer for a few years in the early 90's, I thought (correctly) that most people needed to get stronger, especially in basic movements, what Paul Chek calls 'primal movements, and that people with lousy posture, achy low backs, crummy knees et al all needed to pump some iron. Then, in Chinese Medicine school, I'd read books about fixing joint pain and whatnot that had surefire acupuncture prescriptions that had me slamming the book shut and feeling like I could fix every painful joint in creation. Took me awhile to see that getting stronger was great, and usually necessary, but, say, people with knee pain would always have knee pain until the soft tissue on all 5 sides (yes, there are 5) of their upper legs was softened via concentrated work, as well as strengthened. Oh yeah, and their hips. And their low backs. And maybe their ankles...and so on.
Faithful reader of my site that you are, dear reader, you know that I attack problems with a variety of means, all concurrently, to get the best possible effect. I'm a believer in what the military calls 'advantage stacking,' doing as much as possible, simultaneously, to ensure success. I've got a lot to bring to bear on physical problems, some of it fairly rare and obscure, but almost all of it, when I first encountered it, was marketed as a one-shot cure, as 'bleach' for what ails'ya. Miracle cures for chronic pain were trumpeted for all this stuff. Nothing's turned out to be that way, though some things have come close.
Who do you know that got surgery for ongoing back pain, and a year or two later, was back under the knife? A couple of people, I bet. That's some really expensive bleach, there, in time, aggravation, and oh yeah, money, even if insurance was supposed to cover everything.
A couple came in together, both of them with sciatic pain, and they were both interested in acupuncture for it. No problem, I said, but first, let's get you on a foam roller, changing the consistency of those hip and low back muscles. This took their whole first hour, and they never came back. I got an email, they said that now they were fine, that the rolling had fixed their pain, right there. Well, I'm as vain as anybody, more, sometimes, but I doubt the pain will stay gone without the right strength, flexibility, even nutritional support. Just treating the immediate pain is like taking one hair off Robin William's back.
In my experience, there is no bleach, no one thing that makes a chronic problem go away and stay gone. For physical pain, it's pretty much always a combination of
- Acupuncture and other modalities, like cupping and medicinal massage, from Chinese Medicine
- Supplementation, both Chinese herbs and 'Western' supplements
- Flexibility work, maybe several kinds and using tools
- Soft tissue work, with various rolling tools
- Getting stronger, also with various tools
(I thought of doing a Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York, here, and saying how these points were my Five Fingers, and when I closed them, they made a Fist with which I smote bodily problems, but that's how I used to blog on Myspace, so, no.)
This is after we determine what-all may have made you sprain that ankle in the first place, if it isn't dead obvious, like stepping in a gopher hole while jogging.
Part of getting over an injury is getting stronger than you were before the pain arrived. Someone coming for just plain fitness training often has a catalog of minor nagging pains they don't think much of, just pretty much live with. For both cases, we need non-injurious means to get stronger which may mean, say, for someone with ongoing elbow pain, tricep pushdowns with band resistance instead of using the cable machine, as something about tubing or rubber doesn't hurt joints when free weights or machines will.
Cables, bands, clubs, sandbags, assorted boxes, stepping platforms....they've all got their place. And from Battling Ropes to a machine to strengthen your thumb muscles, we got it all here. Everyone shows up with a different set of needs, and those needs are always changing, based on your energy, other injuries, sleep patterns, any sicknesses, and mindset.
I had a young guy come here who'd hurt himself in a workout class, in large part because the trainer (who should kill himself for shame) had him doing kettlebell clean and presses after about 30 seconds of instruction. Fun With Science – Every time a trainer gives shoddy instruction or allows bad form, just to run more people thru their gym faster and make more money, a gas station explodes.
Besides herbs, acupuncture, and soft tissue work, this guy needed a full workout overhaul with more training for the back of his body, shoulder stretches with a band between sets, and proper instruction on his exercises (I may be mistaken, but I'm almost sure that I'm the only local acupuncturist who can clean up your kettlebell form.) Without changing what he was doing, even if I got him pain-free in one session, he'd have just hurt himself again.
Several productive therapies, all done concurrently. This is how we get out of pain, or stay out of pain. Well, that and avoiding those all-too-common personal trainers who couldn't train their way out of a room with two walls. Learn it sooner or learn it late, but we all have to learn it.