Bodily Connections and the Patterns of Pain

July 21, 2016


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By: Shannon Stoby

Nothing that happens in the body happens in isolation. Any injury, illness, or event creates a chain of reactions. Despite the fact that there is a specialist for every organ, system, and body part these days, it is ultimately all connected.

Ever sprained your ankle and wound up with a knee problem? A hip problem? A back problem? As your gait and weight-bearing change to compensate, things go out of whack up the chain. If you dislocate your shoulder, the protective posturing and disuse of the arm can cause other issues. Or maybe an initial posture or prior injury made you more prone to the dislocation in the first place. We develop all kinds of movement patterns and postures over time to compensate for our injuries and avoid pain. Once the immediate threat of the injury is gone, however, those patterns can remain and make us more predisposed to other pain. And have you ever noticed those old injuries that seem to have healed—except for the nagging pain that resurfaces when you get sick or stressed?

When you consider the fascial system, any number of ‘random’ symptoms become connected. The fascia is a type of connective tissue that runs continuously throughout the body from head to toe in a three-dimensional web, and it covers every system. When healthy, the fascia is fluid and dynamic, yet through injuries, surgeries, traumas, inflammation, or stressors restrictions form in the tissue. These restrictions cause pressure on the delicate structures that lie beneath and tension throughout the system, causing pain that goes unseen in diagnostic imaging. Aside from the pain, structural malalignments and compensatory movement patterns are perpetuated through the restrictions as well.

We become very focused on specific symptoms as the ‘problem’ or a specific event as the ’cause’, but it is not always that simple. Pain is often more about patterns than isolated incidents. Holding patterns or postures. Movement patterns. Behavioural patterns. Thought patterns. So looking at the totality of your body and how your patterns are affecting it is an important aspect to healing.

Even the emotional and the physical go together. Ever had an injury or illness that you were completely ambivalent about? Maybe you were scared by the incident, the pain, or the prognosis. Or maybe frustrated by the disruption to your life, or the fact that your recovery didn’t seem to be going as quickly or smoothly as your friend who had the ‘same’ injury. Maybe you blamed yourself for being so careless, or were angry at someone else for having caused you pain. These are all perfectly normal reactions and dealing with the emotional aspect becomes part of the process.

Pay attention to all the patterns of your life. Sometimes they are so subtle they are hard to notice, or so ingrained they are difficult to navigate on your own. Your own awareness is key to healing, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to be isolated to manage your pain—connect with a health care practitioner that can help you through.

By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT
Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.

Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.

Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.

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