I really can’t believe that I have been a therapist for 22 years. Wow, where has the time gone? Over those years, I have seen a wide range of clients with varied levels of discomforts and struggles and one thing has been consistent: the clients that actively participate and commit to their care are the ones that truly get better. So, what do I mean by actively participating? This means listening and honoring your body, following through with recommendations and self-care, and being smart about what activities we choose to do when we are recovering from an injury.
Every day our bodies are giving us signs that something may be too much for it in that moment. The question is, “Are we listening?” The signs can occur during the activity or after the activity. Some of the signs during an activity may include discomfort (a tightness, ache, sharp pain, etc), the task may not be as easy to perform, or you have to change the movement or compensate to complete the task. Have you noticed any of these? If so, did you continue to do the activity or choose to stop? Most of us just push through because our mind says, “I just need to get this done”. All of these signs are the body’s way of warning you to LISTEN and if you continue it will more than likely be too much and result in a flare-up or injury. Most of us have experienced pushing through and paid for it with pain or injury that has lasted for days or even longer.
How can I listen to my body?
* Choose to slow down. Take your time to complete the task and don’t rush. This allows you to be aware of your form and listen for any signals. Rushing leads to poor body mechanics and ultimately injury.
* Choose to be mindful. Observe how the movement or activity feels when you are completing it. Slowing down allows you to observe and be mindful. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling in my body?” or “Does the activity feel right?”.
* It’s OK to say NO or ask for help. If you know an activity isn’t going to feel good for you, say NO or ask for help. When you are working with someone, make sure that you have good communication so you are working as a team, especially when lifting objects.
* Choose to STOP. If you notice any signs, slowly stop the activity. You can reassess the task and see if there is an alternative plan with better body mechanics. If it still doesn’t feel right, ask for help or come back to it another day. This would also be a great time to take 10 minutes for MFR self-care.
* Vary your tasks. When performing a repetitive task, like raking leaves, switch tasks when you start observing the first signals. The second task should be something that uses the body in a different way. After a while you can come back and rake as long as you aren’t noticing any signs.
Many of you will find listening to your body challenging due to our strong belief systems (difficulty asking for help or saying no, I don’t have time to put this off, etc.). Over the years I’ve heard all of the reasons why this isn’t possible. Remember, you always have a choice. One of the main principles of myofascial release is to never force. Pushing through is perceived as force to the body and its only way to respond is with tension, pain or injury. That’s when clients come back into the clinic flared-up and frustrated because they aren’t making enough progress. When clients start to choose to listen and honor their bodies they notice the flare-ups, pain, and discomfort start to go away and we as therapists can really start to help your body heal because it is starting to get out of the chronic inflammation state.
So, start slowing down and observing how your body responds to different activities. If you are getting any signs you’ll want to back-off, do a different task, and talk to your therapist. We are happy to help you through this change as you start to understand the signs your body is providing you. Over the next week take time to listen and honor your body. It will be happier.