Your recovery is always not what you expect

Because we don’t follow a cookie cutter approach at Square One Active Recovery, what we do with each client is often unique and outside of the client’s expectation. We always emphasised that if you want really good results, you must engage in radical change. This is where the unexpectedness lies.

Having a working mental approach to recovery from chronic pain

As a chiropractor, I often work with clients with back pain and neck pain. A lot of clients come with the expectations that I will do something to the affected areas, their pain will go away.

Some will even expect that all we will do is just exercises.

Well, no. That’s definitely not the case.

back pain, recovery strategies
Exercise PLUS education is the first-line treatment for virtually all chronic pain and injury!

We want to remind y’all that exercise AND education is the best approach to treating chronic pain. Exercise alone, surprisingly or not, is not as effective. This makes sense to us. If you want long-term results, you will need to be able to manage your own condition and take care of your own health. This can only happen with education.

Education is very important because most people come in with false preconceived ideas of what their pain is about.

Understanding chronic pain management

pain science, back pain singapore
These are both real life cases. Which do you think is more painful? Check out our pain science article for answers.

A lot of people believe that pain indicates damage. You may think that your pain is a signal that something is wrong, and that something in your body needs to be fixed at a structural level. This is often untrue for persistent pain (more than 12 weeks). In other words, your pain experience is most likely due to a faulty signaling rather than a true signaling of something is wrong.

We can use the analogy of a fire alarm to illustrates this. Fire alarms do not actually detect fire. Instead, they detect other things such as heat or smoke. For smoke detectors, the fire alarm will start ringing as long as there is smoke! Even if there is no fire! So, if smoke near a smoke detector, you can be assured that the fire alarm will sound off even though there is no actual fire. This is often referred to as a false alarm.

Similarly in the case of pain,  you can experience pain even there is no real threat, danger, or damage. Take example a foot massage. It often hurts but yet there is no damage. In fact, you probably prefer it to hurt. You will probably consider the foot reflexologist to be incompetent if there’s absolutely no pain through the session.

In summary, pain doesn’t equate to damage. Just because you have back aches or neck and shoulder soreness doesn’t mean that something is inherently wrong with your body!

What you believe will change your recovery trajectory

muscle imbalance, chiropractic treatment
There are so many assumptions about the human body that are simply not true. We always blame body imbalances and asymmetries for our pain and problems, but yet research has consistently shown otherwise. If these constructs were important, a gymnast missing his entire right pectoralis muscle should NOT be able to compete at a world championship level!

There are research studies to show that false beliefs can negatively affect your treatment outcomes.

Most of us believe that it’s important to keep our spine straight when we are exercising or lifting heavy objects from the ground. Sound familiar?

Well, this is absolutely junk science! There is zero studies that demonstrate that keeping a neutral or straight spine is safer than rounding of backs. A 2015 study found that there is no association between forward bending and low back pain. In fact, they were able to demonstrate that people who spent MORE time in a rounding posture experience LESS pain than those who didn’t.

That’s crazy right?

We are being told all the time to keep our spine straight when the reverse could actually be true.

According to the authors, patients who maintain a straight spine likely experience more pain because of their fear avoidance behaviour. In other words, it is possible that they are experiencing more pain because they are afraid of the negative effects of being in various “unfavourable” positions.

You need to let your body move! Trust your body to do the right thing.

Just earlier this morning, we worked with a client to encourage him to improve the fluidity of his movements. To a layman, his movements may look great because he holds himself in an upright posture, and has what everyday gym goers would consider “good form”.

The problem with assuming textbook perfect postures or movement patterns is that it forces your body to behave in abnormal ways. We are designed to move freely. There is absolutely no need for you to hold yourself in different fixed positions.

To encourage his body to move, and to help him explore his bodily movements, we asked him to do a Jefferson Curl. Remember, research has shown that your lumbar spine is designed to bend. And rounding of the spine is associated with BETTER lower back pain experience.

When he first started the exercise, he realised he was “unable” to round his back. His first attempt was a deadlift hinge, where his lumbar spine is completely straight/upright while he pushes his pelvis backwards.

In his second attempt, he tried to “lock” his pelvis in placed but the low back still means very upright. This movement would have very closely resembled a Romanian deadlift where the lower body is held in place while the upper body flexes over it (i.e., lumbar hinge).

It is true that both of the movements he performed are acceptable movements. However, neither of them is a Jefferson Curl.

You have to also train your brain in recovery

neck pain singapore, chiropractic treatment, movement pattern
The contraption used to measure neck awareness. Research has shown neck pain patients has poorer awareness of their neck and make more movement errors than pain-free individuals. What is even more shocking is that the movement errors made correlate with brain changes on MRI imaging. The entire of exercising to become stronger so my pain will go away is not true. Remember, strong people can also experience pain!

To relax is perhaps the most important skill you can have in your life. Being unable to relax from a long day at work may mean unnecessary anxiety or restless nights. To be able to relax your body will mean holding on to unnecessary tension, and being inefficient with your daily life activities.

Through the session, we were able to get the client to relax more and he started experiencing movements that he never had before. He was able to relax his shoulders and lower back, to allow them to naturally round to perform a Jefferson Curl.

At the end of the session, he asked if all he had to do was just to deliberately round his back.

Yes . . . and no!

If he were to deliberately round his back, he would get a movement that will resemble a Jefferson Curl. That is indeed what we will be able to see.

However, the purpose of a Jefferson Curl, is allow the body to round through a relaxation process. It has more to do with letting go than to deliberately fit your body into a particular shape or form.

We are all independently unique individuals. Your recovery really shouldn’t be a case of fitting you into an arbitrary “correct” movement. Remember, research shows that that is bad for you.

Recovery is about working with your body to get the best possible outcomes. It’s not a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole!

Making yourself is not going to cut it.

neck pain exercise, chiropractor singapore
People see the exercises that we do in practice and think that they can do it themselves. This is 100% true. You can find all the exercises that we use in practice on Instagram or YouTube. The key, however, is in knowing which are the ones you should be doing at each stage of your recovery. It is also about how much or how little to do, how often to do, and how it should be done. More is not always better. Stronger doesn’t always mean less pain!

Yes, we use exercises as part of our recovery methodology. It is true that a lot of what we do is based on exercising. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all about making yourself stronger.

Sometimes it’s about letting your body move the way it wants.

Sometimes it’s about trying to have awareness of how your body works.

Sometimes it’s about knowing what is factually true, and doing more of what helps. As opposed to following social media junk science, which you should know by now, that leads you nowhere.

Yes, exercise works. We promise you that it does! If you are already exercising and getting nowhere with your recovery, you are probably doing the wrong exercises.

Like how you are a subject matter expert in your own work, we are experts at helping chronic pain sufferers find freedom from pain. To learn more about how we can help you help yourself in your recovery, drop us a message via the form below.



Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.