Chronic pain is one of the hardest issues when training clients. It is very complex because of the way it is processed through the nervous system and brain. As a personal trainer, it is my job on the first day we meet to get their health history of joint and muscular pain that they have experienced in the past and at the present.
Listening to their health history and how they act when they are talking (facial features, sound of their voice, description of pain) gives me a good idea of how they will react when they begin exercising that area of chronic pain. For example, a person with chronic shoulder pain will be overprotective of the affected area and cringe at visually seeing their arm raise in front of them. Their brain will associate this visual feedback with pain and then send that pain signal to the nervous system to create a heightened stress response. To avoid this from happening, I modify exercises and then alter the visual proprioceptive feedback by having them close their eyes (see Mind-Body-Spirit blog) and breathe deeply while moving the arm to only where they feel relaxed. Since they can no longer visually see it moving, the nervous system stays quiet and allows the muscles to gradually move into a larger range of motion over time.
My business name is Dynamic Functional Fitness. I chose this name because my goal is to have each client move well in all areas of the body so functional day-to-day tasks can be done with no thought of pain anywhere in the body. If they are in pain coming to see me; and then experience even more discomfort after leaving my studio because I didn’t validate the client’s story of chronic pain, then the only outcome my client will have is a feeling of isolation and frustration from not being taken seriously.