Breaking Habits That Are Causing You Pain

In many cultures, ours included, groupings of items or events often occur in threes: Baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet; faith, hope, and love; bacon, lettuce, and tomato. The three things have a central theme, and are intimately related to each other.

This pattern is repeated with body aches and pains as well. The three things related to the rehabilitation of your injury are: stiffness, weakness, and habits.

Let’s say you are folding clothes, shoveling snow, or putting groceries away. You move your body in such a way as to get the job done with the necessary amount of movement at joints and use of muscles, in a repetitive, habitual, patterned way. That means you use the same movements over and over, using the same joints and muscles in the same way again and again.

Why not? In the short term, it makes sense to do most everything in this manner. The trouble is, over time, there are joints and muscles that are not getting much use, and so they get stiffer and weaker.

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Habitual movements, which we all have, lead to uneven joint range of motion and muscle strength, a situation that therapists call an “imbalance”, which further leads to uneven wear-and-tear on joints, muscles, and tendons. Those tissues are tough, but eventually break down and start to hurt. You try some exercise, some balm, some voodoo that you heard about from Dr. Oz.

Unfortunately, the relief is temporary, and frustration mounts. Blame your old habits; the same movements that were effective for putting groceries away for so many years also repeatedly gnawed away at your back, your neck, or your shoulder. Einstein had it right: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

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Habits are hard to change, and it’s hard to know what habits should change. The first thing I tell patients is this: keep your nose and your toes pointing in the same direction as much as you can during daily activities. “Nose and toes” rhymes, and is easy to remember.

It will give you a way to assess your habits and make changes. Will that one change eliminate your pain? Of course not. It’s just the first step -but an important and essential one that will give you some permanent control over the very thing that is leading to your pain.

For more exercises and stretches that will continue to help change those old habits that are causing you pain, come in for an evaluation or a free consultation.

– Mike Jones, PT


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