We may decide to go to a Physiotherapist or Remedial Massage Therapist to receive an assessment and to have some body work and massage to support us with a recent or reoccurring injury, niggle, or long term pain. This is of course absolutely awesome and can really support to alleviate some of the symptoms that may be impacting on our quality of life.
However in many cases the physical issues and symptoms that physiotherapists and remedial massage therapists treat are not usually from a recent sudden injury, they instead are from a gradual build up over time of factors affecting the body, including postural, movement and lifestyle choices, until one day the shoulder joint pinches or there is a severe spasm in the back etc and it can seem like it has suddenly appeared.
When we have a specific sudden traumatic injury e.g. falling off a horse, banging into someone playing football or a whiplash injury etc, there is something recent and obvious to get support for and heal, but we can also be gradually injuring ourselves or causing ourselves trauma through habitual postural positions, movement patterns and lifestyle choices. These things can cause as much if not more discomfort as a sudden injury and can really impact on our daily quality of life.
So how does this develop? Maybe it is how we sit at a desk?... carry heavy shopping bags?... a job that involves repetitive strenuous movements?... we don't do enough exercise?.... walking dogs who pull and drag.... carrying children?.... push or rush ourselves to 'get everything done'?.... feel worried, stressed or anxious?..…all of these lifestyle factors plus many more have an impact on the quality of our movements and posture and can effect how our body feels at the end of the day, or end of the week.
In a sense our bodies reflect back to us our daily choices: be it in our posture, movement, lifestyle or emotional wellbeing and this can be seen in the increasing incidence of back pain and neck pain, the majority of which are due to lifestyle issues and habits.
“Almost 31 million days of work were lost last year due to back, neck and muscle problems, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).” February 2014
We often ignore or over-ride the signs and cues our bodies offer us, until an ache, pain or health issues makes us stop and gets us to reflect and look for support.
These cumulative choices concerning posture, our movements, our lifestyle choices or our bodies foundational health are real issues for many people and often there are underlying issues concerning our relationship with self-care, what it looks like and why it may not be happening?
Simply put, self-care is about having a responsive relationship with our bodies and supporting them in our daily routine. Many of us do not consider how we do this until a health issue arises that impacts on how we function. However what if we committed to self-care (building a responsive and caring relationship with our bodies) every day BEFORE we had an injury or pain or problem?
Here at the clinic within our remedial massage or physiotherapy sessions, we offer self care advice, including support with posture and movement patterns, stretching and strengthening exercises which can be incorporated easily into the daily routine. These additional factors aim to support longer term maintenance and recovery alongside alleviating current symptoms and offers a supportive way of self management and longer term prevention of the condition(s).
How we approach self-care, and changes in life-style are key. If a back stretch is treated as a chore, it will not be something that will be continued or it will be done out of duty and so there will be tension in the body and pressure felt.
The quality we approach self-care in is well worth considering... we often hear the phrases: ' I can't take care of myself because that is selfish' or 'I can't take care of myself because I don’t have time'.
But can we turn these responses on their head and ask: Is it selfish to give you body some care and attention? For example, could I spend less time pushing myself at work or on social media or TV browsing and more time stretching or taking a five minute walk at lunch time here and there in the day to support my body? And it does not even need to be something extra, it could just be about being more observant and considerate when cleaning our teeth, going to bed or cooking a meal, going to the bathroom when we need to and not hanging on, often we rush on to the next thing, with out being present in what we are are doing...leaving us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
Self-care is not a selfish endeavour it is the foundation stone of long term health and vitality.
Can we look at why it might be that we are not making time to deepen our relationship with our body and take care of it - after all our bodies are the vehicle that takes us from A to B. Often many us give our cars and homes more ongoing maintenance than we do our bodies.
It is not about being bad or good, and certainly not about pleasing anyone else including your practitioner. It is about making a priority simple exercises, postural awareness and other every day caring practices for you and your body real and meaningful and part of your normal daily routine. This will have great benefits to your quality of life.
One of the main purposes of the body work, advice and exercises we offer at the clinic is to support our clients to develop more body and postural awareness, which can support the reduction of tension and pain. Developing body connection and awareness can support and potentially picking up on physical symptoms early and can offer a way of living that is more supportive and caring of the body to avoid reoccurring episodes.
In an appointment alongside body work and massage, we often suggest 2 or 3 simple exercises and postural advice, which is shown and explained alongside discussing the quality and purpose of them, as well as looking at daily activities, habits, posture and gait, this can support the client to gain confidence and self empowerment concerning their own health and wellbeing.
It is well worth considering how we can make space in our lives to support our foundational health, remembering that it is a practice and we are learning to shift habits, refine our posture and support ourselves and this takes consistency, honesty and commitment not perfection.
And it is never too late....