Dr. Cliff Heinrich
Does Exercise Help To Resolve Physical Problems?
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
There are many healthcare professionals who believe that physical complaints, such as neck, back, pelvic, arm and leg pain can be resolved with exercise. In my opinion yes and no…
When an area of the body, let us use the shoulder as an example, is injured, the muscles and other tissues around the shoulder joint usually become tight or contracted. The person may then have difficulty moving their arm and shoulder around because of both pain and restriction. It is as if the body has become “guarded” because of this injury. This injury may have affected the muscles, tendons, and ligaments supporting the shoulder joint, but it may have also affected the nerves… There are nerve sensors or receptors (muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs) in the tissues surrounding the shoulder that interact with the nervous system. When there is an injury to the body, the nerves may then become stimulated or what we call “facilitated”, causing the nerves “to fire” more than usual. This firing of the nerves can be intermittent or continuous depending on the degree of injury to the body. Therefore, I find it is important that we first “balance” the nervous system and then work with the muscles, and other tissues surrounding the joint(s) to improve the injured area. Additionally, there is another approach that I have created and have successfully used for many years. This other system is called Dynamic-Momentum (see below), that offers remarkable results by addressing areas of the body where there is much tension or restriction. But first, let us get back to the nervous system.
The nervous system is divided up into two different types of systems. One of the systems is called the somatic nervous system, it is the part of the nervous system that we have voluntary control of our body, like when we are walking and talking. The other system is called the autonomic nervous system, whereby the body operates involuntarily, such as the beating of our heart and digesting the food we eat. The autonomic nervous system is further divided into two parts, the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (digestion, relaxation, and healing) nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is considered the fight or flight part of the nervous system that gets “turned on more” in situations that we perceive as dangerous. On the other hand, the parasympathetic system involves the relaxation, digestion, and healing portion of the nervous system.
When the body is injured, the sympathetic nervous system may then become hyperactive or stimulated. This stimulus may subside over time or it may continue indefinitely until it is properly addressed. Research done by Dr. Irvin Korr has proven that chronic (typically 3 or more months) sympathetic hyperactivity creates conditions in the person’s body that are “chronic and self-sustaining and often impair healing and recovery.” In other words, the body is better able to heal when the hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system is lessened. He also stated that with proper manipulative techniques, the hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system can become more balanced. He stated, “effective manipulative therapy improves afferent input so that sympathetic hyperactivity is alleviated.”
So, I do agree that exercise will usually help someone to develop more stamina and that they will be better able to, for example walk/run further and or faster, lift heavier weights, and do more repetitions of various exercises during their workout sessions, when the person’s body is healthy and not injured. However, when the body is injured, I feel it changes the circumstances entirely. It is my opinion and my many years (approximately 30 years) of hands-on (literally) experience that the area that has been injured should first be free of injury and not be further stressed with exercise. Only after the physical problem has been resolved should someone start or continue to exercise ever so gently and gradually. So when exercise is used as a method to “strengthen or to treat” an area of the body that is injured, I believe that it may cause more strain on the already compromised tissues and may create added stress to the muscles, joints, ligaments and other tissues that are supporting the injured tissue.
Exercises that may help to lessen pain and improve function:
Passive Exercises: I feel that passive exercises (the patient is passive, using little or no effort) done with a certified therapist may help to reduce the pain and even increase the range of motion of a joint that has been injured. I believe that this approach may help address situations like frozen shoulder and other areas of the body that are restricted.
Isometric Exercises: I can appreciate the use of isometric exercises because they helped me much when I had Osgood-Schlatter’s disease as a teenager. Also, what I like about isometric exercises is that you are contracting a certain group of muscles without having to move the injured joint much, if at all. This type of exercise avoids having to move an injured joint through its restrictive or painful barriers, which may prevent or lessen the chance of further injury.
Stretching Exercises: I feel that stretching exercises done gently, can help an area of the body that has been injured. May I stress, done gently? If we can follow some of the concepts from passive (minimal or no effort) and isometric (minimal joint movement) exercises, then I feel we are remaining in the safe zone. People may sometimes cause further injury by overstretching the already strained tissues by using too much force. Even when a person is without injury, stretching in my opinion should be done very gently because it may push the limits of the tissues to such an extent that the muscle stretch receptors will suddenly cause the nerves to become overstimulated and create a new strain or injury.
Further options to address the body:
Osteopathy: Osteopathy in my opinion, is one of the best approaches to bring about significant improvement in areas of the body that have been injured. For several years, I have taught osteopaths and osteopathic students how to treat a multitude of physical complaints using various osteopathic techniques in addition to teaching them how to “balance” a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system (based on Dr. Irvin Korr’s research). Osteopathy offers about a dozen different methods and hundreds of different techniques to treat the body.
Dynamic-Momentum: Dynamic-Momentum is a “hands-on” approach that is unlike anything else out there… It offers a unique approach in addressing most, if not all the regions in the body. Dynamic-Momentum is highly effective, simple to learn, safe to use and offers a gentle approach in addressing restrictive areas in the body. Physicians (MD, DO, or ND) and therapists who use a hands-on approach in their practice may find Dynamic-Momentum to be invaluable in achieving even greater results with their clients. Even those with no prior hands-on training can learn to use Dynamic-Momentum. My wife, patients, and I have witnessed remarkable results (please see the testimonies) by using Dynamic-Momentum 90% to 100% of the time in my practice…
Homeopathy: Although I have studied homeopathy for almost 30 years, I am not practicing as a homeopath. I have, however, found homeopathy to be a powerful form of alternative medicine that I have seen alleviate and or significantly improve a multitude of physical complaints.
To answer the question… Yes, I believe that certain types of exercises (passive, isometric, and gentle stretching exercises) may be of benefit in lessening the pain and improving the function of an area of the body that has been injured. I do not agree that strengthening the muscles that have been injured is of much benefit and that it could potentially cause further injury to the joint and the surrounding tissues for the reason that I believe the nervous system needs to be properly addressed. I believe also that using osteopathy, homeopathy, and Dynamic-Momentum are great options for addressing various areas of the body.
Korr, Irvin M., The Collected Papers of Irvin M. Korr-Volume 2
Dr. Cliff Heinrich has been practicing Osteopathy for approximately 30 years. He completed his residency in both Family Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM). Dr. Cliff had been Board Certified in Family Medicine/OMM but chose to focus mainly on Osteopathic Manipulation. He had taught Osteopathy to medical students in his clinics for over a decade. He also taught Osteopathy as a professor at a medical school for a few years before he and his family relocated to another country (where he has taught osteopathy for an additional 5 years). People have come to see him from around the world for their innumerable complaints. After 25,000+ (moderate to low estimate) hours of treating his patients, he has come to believe that restrictions or areas of tension within the tissues interfere with the natural flow and motion of the body. Dr. Cliff developed Dynamic-Momentum to remove these restrictions or areas of tension in the tissues so that every individual may potentially have greater flow and motion within their bodies.