By Dr. Alan Zedaker, PT, DPT, CFL1
“I’m not going to add any more weight on the bar, I know I’ll get hurt”
“I’m not going to try and kip, I know it’ll injure my shoulder”
Or “I’m not going to try CrossFit, it’s dangerous”
If you’re reading this you’re probably a CrossFit Oyster Point member, so the last statement may not apply to you but the first two might (but you’ve probably heard a friend or family member say the 3rd statement). If you’ve said anything like those first two statements, you may be kinesiophobic.
Kinesiophobia is defined as the fear of movement for fear of injury.
Kinesiophobia is a well-studied aspect of the chronic pain population in physical therapy and medicine. As a PT, we often times see many patients who are on a chronic pain management program that includes numerous medications, disabilities and higher ratings of self-reported pain. Kinesiophobia in the chronic pain patient is a well-documented phenomena that frequently limits patient progress and therapy participation. They’re afraid that movement or exercise may make their pain worse. Usually it’s the opposite.
With that being said, kinesiophobia shows up frequently in the general public. Many people who haven’t been that active growing up, have had previous injuries, or start something new are afraid of movement and injury. Is there a portion of the population who you think isn’t kinesiophobic at all?
Children will try almost anything. They’ll jump from scary heights, flip upside down in cart wheels, and swing across monkey bars many feet above the ground. They seem fearless. Kinesiophobia seems to be learned over time from being injured and realizing that ‘yeah, if I fall off a pullup bar it’s going to hurt’. Maybe you’ve seen or heard a horror story of your best friend’s Uncle’s pet llama that tried CrossFit and hurt their rotator cuff. Well I’m here to tell you that CrossFit is a relatively safe and healthy form of exercise.
If you’re a part of a CrossFit gym or program that focuses on form, safe progression of skill acquisition and progressive loading you’re in the right place (I like to think that CrossFit Oyster Point excels at this). With that being said, it’s okay to try to PR a lift and see what you’re capable of. It’s okay to go a little heavier in a workout as long as your form is not breaking down significantly. Getting stronger has proven to decrease diabetes risk (by improving insulin sensitivity), improve bone density, lower blood pressure, improve metabolism, improve sleep, decrease chronic pain, and probably many other amazing body composition changes. It’s also okay to try a new gymnastics progression. It’s also okay (although not likely) if you happen to get injured. Life isn’t over. It’s not ideal, but advancements in medical treatment, rehab and recovery means we probably won’t just amputate your limb like the civil war days.
The overall logic here is simple: We avoid things we think will hurt…and exercise can hurt even when it doesn’t lead to injury. If you’re a new exerciser, it may be difficult to distinguish between the regular discomfort of a workout and something more serious. Some muscle soreness is normal, some joint stiffness can be normal. Swelling and discoloration is not normal. But, if you’re stressed about your workout, you’re more likely to experience increased muscle tension and mental distraction, which can make you more prone to injury! Relax, have fun, and try something new and challenging. You may surprise yourself with what you’re capable of! I believe (as well as my good friend Socrates) that not progressing and not trying something new is a worse alternative.
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