Why Language Influences How You Feel And Move

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(updated April 2021)

Finding the right movements and drills to ‘heal what ails ya’, get strong, or be ‘sport-specific’, will only take you so far. How your body feels, how it moves, and how you view your body, are all influenced by the language, messages, and words that you read, hear, think, and say. 

It’s true. When it comes to getting relief from the aches and building a strong, capable body, the language you are processing is as important as the movements you’re doing.

Here’s why…

Is There One “Best” Exercise
For My Aches And Pains?

No. And the “best” thing for your aches and pains may not even be an exercise.

Language is powerful.

They can make you distrustful of your body. They can make you feel like your body is too complicated for you to take care of. They can make you feel like whatever happens to you is inevitable – like you don’t have a say in the matter.

They can also do the opposite of all these.

Words can influence the focus type your brain uses. They can influence you to move with more stiffness or more fluidity. They can influence you to avoid certain movements or positions. And they can get you to do a certain movement or position with greater or less intensity.

Safety First

Your body is always trying to protect you. And if your mind believes – consciously or subconsciously – that you are at risk, that will be a program that runs in the background perpetually until you address it.

Especially in cases of chronic and recurring pain, beliefs and worries can play a big role in the persistence of pain. I’m quoting the abstract of this paper on fear-avoidance beliefs and chronic pain because it’s so succinct and good:

“Fear-avoidance (FA) beliefs are significantly associated with the experience of pain, especially when the pain becomes chronic in nature. The anticipated threat of intense pain will often result in the constant vigilance and monitoring of pain sensations, which, in turn, can cause even low-intensity sensations of pain to become unbearable for the person. Just the anticipation of increased pain or reinjury can further stimulate avoidance behaviors. A vicious cycle may develop, in which fears of increased pain or reinjury contribute to the avoidance of many activities, leading to inactivity and, ultimately, to greater disability.”

Amongst other effects, fearful movement has been shown to decrease neural drive to the tissues being feared, which means there is less muscular contraction of those tissues. If you need to move a certain way, your body will just find another means by which to do it.

This can create some interesting accommodations, where your body might ‘avoid’ using tissues of concern and lean a bit harder on other tissues. This is just your body doing its best, but it certainly might create some kind of effect down the line.

Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

What Messages Are You Hearing About Your Body?

You see messages every day that influence how you perceive your body.

You’re told that getting older can only equate to feeling frail and awful. You’re told that you should expect your joints to hurt now that you’re 35, 40, 55, whatever age you are. You’re told that you’re “too old” to do certain things anymore.

On top of those external messages, what internal messages are you hearing? For me personally, one of the messages I had internalized was, “it’s always a battle with your body.” Can you imagine how your relationship with a person would be if you went into it assuming “it’s always a battle with this person”? Pretty terrible, huh.

And so, begin to look into what messages you’re hearing and believing, and start rooting out and proving wrong the ones that aren’t serving you.

To learn much more about how language, messages, and words, influence your symptoms in your body, you’ll want to read this post of mine.

A final thought for you on the matter –


Owl