Most of us have heard the phrase, "Healing is not linear.", often in regards to mental health. If you've ever struggled with mental illness you know more often than not it never fully goes away; you learn tools to manage it better, but you know there will still be days that are worse that others.
We are conditioned to see most things in black and white, pink and blue, good and bad or healed and unhealed. That is seldom the case. As humans we push ourselves to the max. On the daily we will extend all of our energy stores, push through the pain, suck it up, do what we have to do, etc. Now yes sometimes we have to do, but we can definitely do it better. When we regularly deplete ourselves, there then becomes a need for more frequent and consistent care.
When we talk about healing and the musculoskeletal system, we have to understand that it is also is not linear. What we do in our headspace as well as in our physical bodies will have an effect. Posture can affect mental health, stress can increase muscle tension, mental health conditions elicit physical responses and so on. This is not to cause worry with every posture or body mechanic, only to bring notice to the ever varying stimuli affecting our physical health.
Chronic pain is often a result from years and years of stuff (trauma, depression, grief, repetitive use, overdoing in the gym, pushing through the pain of injury, poor posture, stress, etc). It has arisen from muscle imbalances and nervous system disregulation that often has gone on for years.
Unfortunately there is no treatment in existence which can magically correct the issue(s) which took a lot of time to create. It is a process of good days and not so good days and neutral days and bad days. The ultimate goal being that not so good and bad days become significantly less frequent. But doesn't mean they disappear completely in regards to chronic pain.
Healing often looks something like this-
If someone, let's call them "Human A", has experienced a trauma in adolescence, that has created a physiological reaction from the initial onset. Human A then carries this trauma forward (in some unique capacity) in both the body and mind. As time passes this leads to chronic pain from sustained muscular imbalances causing joint restriction and the associated nervous and vascular system disruption.
Human A has gone to therapy and is working on their mental health, which is awesome! You go Human A. However, Human A is also working 60 hours a week at a desk job where they are often unable to take breaks, going ham at the gym, spending little or no time stretching, not drinking enough water and is stressed to the max about the dumpster fire we exist in (if you're not stressed about this please tell me how you do it?).
After a certain point their body has had enough and asks for help by eliciting a significant pain experience, the kind that causes them to seek treatment.
As you can imagine they live in a tight body, a very very tight body. But within a few sessions they feel improved overall! Yay!! They report that their pain is better most days and they have more mobility. They have hope for the first time in a while.
As care continues, eventually it feels as though there is a plateau.
They still have some level of pain every day. They still have severe flare ups from time to time that make them feel like they are back to square one. They feel discouraged;
They also continue to work the same amount of hours, go ham at the gym and have not been the most proficient with practicing their stress reduction techniques.
But they are starting to drink more water and stretch every morning. They have also learned some new tools to help manage those bad days.
Eventually there will be a new break through in the pain cycle and more significant improvement will be experienced once again.
Until the next plateau, flare up, or traumatic life experience.
When you're in the thick of it, sometimes it can be hard to see. Tracking symptoms can seem tedious but necessary in order to show improvement in those moments when it feels like there is none.
Remember, healing takes time.
Learning new habits takes time.
Undoing poor posture takes time.
Redirecting trauma responses takes time.
Retraining the brain takes time.
Correcting muscle imbalances take time, especially when more time is spent is the same posture than actively correcting it.
At a certain age it becomes increasingly apparent that our bodies will always require some form of consistent care to function optimally. And that is okay! It has actually always been that way, just not always what we were taught.
It means learning to practice being mindful of our body as we move through space.
Changing our movements and postures when we sense discomfort.
Taking the time to rehabilitate muscles as well as build them.
Putting the fuel we need into our systems.
Finding ways to recharge effectively.
Focusing on improving mobility.
When progress is slow and the aggravating activities continue at a rate higher than those of healing, it can be easy to feel as though there is no improvement.
Stay the course. It will be worth it.