Freeman Medical Musings Blog

Movement Patterns and Pain

Posted by Chris Peterson, PT, DPT, OCS, on October 10, 2014

A couple years ago, I was trying a new fitness workout that included quite a bit of one-legged jumping. I don’t really do a lot of jumping anymore, but it felt pretty good until I felt something shift in my back. I couldn’t stand up straight almost immediately, and gradually got more and more sore. Fortunately, I take care of issues like these every day at Freeman Rehabilitation & Sports Center. I knew I would be fine in a few days or weeks at most, and within three days my pain did go away. What I had never fully appreciated though, was how uncoordinated I would become due to the injury and how long that would last. I laughed every time I stood up from a chair because I was still moving like I was hurting. This change in coordination after an injury happens to everyone and is often persistent long after the tissue has healed.

We each have maps of our body in our brain to plan and execute movement. Our brain maps allow us to move without thinking of every muscle and joint involved. The pattern of movement is formed by our experience and pain will quickly change both our movement and our map for movement. Research tells us that people who experienced extreme pain or long-lasting pain may permanently keep poor compensatory movement strategies.

These new compensatory movement patterns can be problematic in their own way. The major risk factor for sustaining an injury is a prior injury, even if it the injury occurred in an unrelated body region. We believe that risk is due to poor movement patterns. The risk of injury can be mitigated by training movement to get back to pre-injury levels or better. Recovering from pain doesn’t always mean that someone is recovered from the injury. Health professionals – such as athletic trainers, physical therapists or occupational therapists – can help ensure that people continue to stay active and avoid injury by teaching and training more ideal movement patterns.