Seven Pathways For Getting Out of Pain

There are MANY different options for treating common musculoskeletal pains. For example, back pain is often treated with stretching, strengthening, motor control, massage, yoga, etc. Which methods are worth trying?

Of course, you should consult a medical professional for guidance. But chances are, they will prescribe one specific way to treat it, without telling you about other options that have equal support from research.

Some people will find that heavy deadlifts improve their back pain, while others will have the exact opposite experience. The same is true for yoga, chiropractic adjustment, or running. There isn’t much way to tell in advance which of these activities will be helpful, so you may need to explore to find out. But you can’t try all of the different options, many of which are pure quackery, and/or redundant to others you may have already tried. This post outlines seven rough categories for different ways to get out of pain. They are:

  1. Rest
  2. Strength training
  3. Mobility (e.g. stretching, dynamic joint mobility drills) 
  4. Coordination/motor control (e.g. corrective exercise, pilates)
  5. Mind-body/awareness (e.g. meditation, yoga, Feldenkrais)
  6. General health (diet, general exercise, sleep, stress reduction) 
  7. Manual therapy (e.g. massage, mobilization, manipulation) 

Each of the above methods are worth trying for many varieties of pain, even in the absence of a specific diagnosis. They are like general medicines with broad benefits and few side effects. In some cases you don’t need an expert to use them, especially if you know some basic principles of exercise. Here’s a brief description of each pathway, why they might lead somewhere good, and some common pitfalls you may encounter on the way. 


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