Getting past the fear of pain

And how I came back from injury

Let’s talk a little about progress.

From 2004-2013 I was a high intensity fitness nut…and then I started getting injured. Really injured.

My breaking point came when I was in massage school. I was still working full time and to combat that stress I got a little addicted to an aggressive form of hot power yoga (but in my head, it wasn’t too much because I wasn’t doing crazy amounts of plyometrics anymore).

Turns out unstable shoulders + life stress + massage school + several hours of hot yoga a week is a great recipe for neural impingements.

A few months in, I woke up unable to grip things with searing nerve pain down both arms. I had huge loss of function and it hurt like hell. I couldn’t push, pull or lift with feeling like I had a toothache in my arms or my hands going numb.

Two years (and a whole lot of therapeutic and stability work) later, I’ve healed…BUT I still get scared of weight bearing into my hands, because it kicks up symptoms, so in turn, I’ve avoided yoga.

Yesterday, I took a yoga class and I won’t lie, it really challenged my trust in my body. The whole time I was asking myself things like:

Can I do this?

Should I do this?

Am I going to pay for this later?

What is the source of this sensation and is it the warning sign of an injury?

During that hour, my brain was on the opposite of zen. It was on overdrive like an alarm bell screaming “Danger. Danger. Something’s wrong!”

And what I experienced was in no way a reflection of the instructor. She was fabulous. Her class was safe and her cues were lovely. I’d recommend her to anyone who wanted to try yoga.

In fact, it might have been because I knew her class was good that I was even willing to try these poses again.

At the end of class, I did a mental scan of my system and while I felt a bit tense (no surprise there), I had no numbness in my arms and nothing hurt.

Today my hands are fine.

It took 2 years, but it appears that I can now do yoga again – down dogs, chaturangas and all.

I hope it’s clear that my message is not that yoga is injurious.

I share this story to say that while we sometimes need a break or a switch up in exercise modalities to heal, it doesn’t mean that we can never go back to the things that we enjoy.

Fitness isn’t about doing the most perfect movement patterns all the time. It’s about finding what works for you and spending enough time doing activities that sustain your structure, so you can keep doing what you love longer, with less pain.

When we get hurt, it’s easy to lose trust in our bodies and to fear movement. This makes sense. Being in pain – especially chronic pain – is miserable.

However, it’s important that we don’t let fear of pain stop us from moving. Yes, we may need to take time off, reconsider our movement strategies or change the volume in which we do things, but fundamentally we are meant to move.

Movement shouldn’t mean fear. You are stronger than you realize and you’re not alone.

Recovering from an injury takes patience, work and sometimes help from a physical therapist, doctor, bodyworker, movement teacher or all of the above! Reintroducing activities can feel like a slow, upward battle.

But if you ride that often slooo-oow recovery wave, things will get better.

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