Contrary to popular belief, we do not handout homework exercises to you because we have a burning desire to nag you and impose ourselves upon your personal life. That forms only part of our motivation!
Homework exercise for many of our clients is imperative if they are to achieve their goals. I will explain why in the context of goals relating to chronic pain/injury.
We are each given this tremendously complex, fragile, adaptable machinery to go out and experience the world in, and it comes with no bloody instruction manual!
Movement is a behaviour
Lets think about this- what is a behaviour? It is an action in response to an event, that in humans, is formed over time and through repetition. So the way that we use our bodies at this point in time, can definitely be considered a behaviour.
Now for those that have in the past, or are currently experiencing chronic pain, I want you, after reading the following sentence I have bolded, to take a deep breath and read on with an open mind before launching a torrent of hate mail in my direction.
If you are experiencing chronic pain and/or injury, you are not using your body properly.
That is harsh, but it is also true. Itis not your fault though is it? We are each given this tremendously complex, fragile, adaptable machinery to go out and experience the world in, and it comes with no bloody instruction manual! It is only right then as a result of long periods of sitting, repetitious movement, injury, psychological trauma, stress etc etc,that we might start using our bodies incorrectly if no-one instructs us how to do otherwise.
Let me give you a concrete example. When people who have notexperienced low-back pain move their limbs, their deep abdominal and spinal muscles pre-contract to ‘protect’ the spine prior to their limbs moving. Individuals with low-back pain however, lose this preemptive stabilisation. This has been evidenced through numerous studies conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland from the early 90’s to the present day.
This means that the individuals suffering from low-back pain, in a way, are not using their bodies properly. That is again quite blunt but it is true.
There is good news though.
We can re-learn this sequence of ‘abdominal/spinal-activation-prior-to-movement’ and it has been shown in the scientific literature that if we do so, we can greatly reduce the likelihood and severity of low-back pain episodes in the future. This example applies throughout the body- be it neck pain, shoulder pain, hip, knee, foot, whatever pain, it is true that at this point in time you are not using your body correctly, but if you learn to use it better you will improve what you are experiencing.
Here is the snag. It takes time and repetition. Why, because movement is a behaviour. We work in patterns. If you are to change the way you move, you need to pattern yourself to move differently. Think of when you learnt to drive, or play a sport, or play a musical instrument. It took a long time for it to feel natural. But it probably does now if you have dedicated yourself to it. If you drove a car today you probably didn’t appreciate the vast coordination of movements it took for that to happen successfully because you are so well-patterned to drive.
So I come back to homework exercise. We as trainers prescribe exercises that are intended to help you learn to use your body better and we ask that you do them for homework so that you can ingrain these new patterns into how you move. The good thing is, it is about quality and frequency rather than quantity. So it really only takes a few well-performed exercises every morning and ideally evening too, for a few weeks, to change the way you use your body and hence improve the way you feel. So please do not look at homework exercise as an imposition, rather treat it as a necessity and feel the benefits for yourself.