What’s Wrong with Me?

We’ve all said that phrase at one point or another when we’ve started feeling twinges or pain in different body areas. It’s not an unusual event for a dancer or athlete. It’s a common question that many of us have asked at various times over our lives. I sure have.

After listening to one of my favorite PT’s, Gray Cook, discussing pain he put forth an idea that I have continued to ponder and so decided to share it with all of you. He said that instead of asking what’s wrong with me, ask what am I doing wrong?

This, my friends, is a simple but powerful reframe!

When my lower back first started aching my first question was – what’s wrong? Arthritis? Disc problem? It caused me to worry and become hyperaware of the discomfort. I always pay attention when my body is feeling uncomfortable because I know pain and discomfort are simply indicators that something is not right and my body is letting me know.

I don’t get panicky or freaked out – I’m simply listening to the messages from my body.

BUT….. I was initially focused on trying to diagnosis the problem in my back. If I went to the doctors, they would have offered some type of product (anti-inflammatory?) or procedure (PT, surgery, etc.) Their goal is to also alleviate the discomfort and figure out what’s wrong.

Instead of asking what’s wrong – what if I had asked myself what am I doing wrong? Looking at the bigger patterns of lifestyle influences along with technique patterns can be a powerful and appropriate place to begin your rehab journey.

If a student’s knee starts hurting it is important to check if there is any ligamentous challenges, but even MORE important for them to ask themselves questions such as:

Was I pushing my turnout too far? (technical cause) How has my nutrition been lately? (sugar…. inflames the body) Am I fully hydrated? Am I getting enough sleep? What’s my nutrition been like lately? Any big shifts in my schedule or classes? Coming off of a break? Doing a lot more sitting now that school has started? What’s my stress level like? (increased stress decreases immune system and appropriate inflammatory responses)

These are all things that should get addressed in the rehab process, but often don’t until the injury or ache has increased to the point that we have to make lifestyle changes.

I want to be clear, I am not saying don’t go to a practitioner to get an accurate diagnosis. I am saying that when we are honest with ourselves we can often find ways to optimize our health immediately. In health, everything matters! The fuel you take in, the rest cycles the muscles require, emotional and mental resiliency, and sound technique.

Going back to my own achey back… I resolved it by focusing on appropriate stability for my lower back and mobilizing my hips. This was the start of my journey that culminated in the Mobility and Stability Training: Foundations of Functional Movement course.

In the future I will be much quicker to ask what am I doing wrong? I encourage you to think about this approach with your students as well. It isn’t always what’s happening inside of the dance class that is the underpinning of the problem. There can be factors outside of their technique that will influence their physical ability.

To your success, and health,

Deborah ❤️

2 replies
  1. Leigh Roberts, PT
    Leigh Roberts, PT says:

    “What am I doing wrong?” sounds like blame and shame. Can we reframe it to say “what can I do differently?” As a PT, I want my patients to understand that HOW they do things matters, but that they aren’t wrong for doing them when they didn’t know better…

    • deborah
      deborah says:

      Leigh, you are absolutely right on with your comment. I should have continued the process of unpacking that phrase and taken it right to what you offered. Once a person has identified they are saying to themselves – what’s wrong with me? Which is a very common occurrence, they should move right into maybe I can try something different. The way it was presented in the lecture was as I presented it in the newsletter as a twist or reframe on those words and you are absolutely correct to put their response into more of a growth mindset. Thank you!


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