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As a physio I prescribe and encourage movement as therapy. I use my hands to mobilise, stretch, massage and move body parts; I use my voice to educate, encourage, plan and prescribe movement strategies; I use my body to demonstrate and visually communicate movement patterns. Movement really is a metaphorical feast for the senses and it’s also highly therapeutic.
Movement therapy………yes I’ve moved on (pardon the pun) from the term exercise. Patients don’t necessarily want to exercise better, they want to MOVE better and FEEL better and PERFORM better. Maybe even HEAL better.
Movement is widely prescribed as a therapy for most disease states of the body – from pain and stiffness in our muscles and joints to diabetes, asthma, heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease to name a few. So what is it about movement that is so therapeutic across such a wide variety of conditions?
The common link to all disease in the body is chronic, low grade inflammation. It’s the body’s neuro-immune system attempting to restore balance. Our nervous system and immune system working together, releasing inflammatory chemicals like cytokines and hormones like cortisol. Driven by an overactive autonomic nervous system and exacerbated by stress and modern lifestyle choices.
The prescribed antidote to this modern day chronic disease dilemma is movement. Why? Because the physical organ that is our nervous system moves and stretches as WE MOVE. It glides and slides as we bend and flex and extend. Movement obviously keeps the nervous system physically healthy, infusing it with blood and oxygen. But movement is also highly anti-inflammatory, it changes the balance of the chemicals in the neuro-immune system, calming the inflammatory response.
So movement therapy is really immunotherapy. It balances the immune response by balancing the pro and anti-inflammatory chemicals in the nervous system. Ultimately health and well-being.. FEELING well and MOVING well and PERFORMING well…. is all about achieving the right chemical balance in our nervous system by creating a balance between movement and stillness.
And as for the prescription of movement…. well, I’ve moved on from numbers too. 10 reps 3 times a day is arbitrary. It really depends on the chemical balance in your nervous system. If your inflammatory profile is reasonably low then you can move more vigorously, more often. If your inflammatory profile is high then go gently with less repetitions and adopt the ‘little and often’ rule. Skilled therapists are terrific at judging from your history and examination where you sit along the inflammatory spectrum.
Set a goal and start moving. Find the right balance for you. Your immune system will do the rest.
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