Over the last year I have come to the conclusion that life presents us with opportunities to learn and if we don’t learn the first time, we get more opportunities to figure it out.
This is especially true with our bodies.
Injuries allow us the time to stop and take a look at our health. Illnesses are our body’s way of forcing us to a halt so we can evaluate how we take care of ourselves.
Some where along the way a lot of us have found strategies that aren’t always constructive to our health, which is what I like to point out so you can take a few minutes to evaluate if you want to continue the path you are on.
Less and less do I believe we travel the wrong road, eventually we will get to a dead end, which gives us the opportunity to turn around.
Unfortunately some people’s dead end is literal, so if you are looking to be well, learn what your body is teaching and get back on the path of good health.
This morning I began thinking about how a “chain” is a good metaphor for our lives.
The references apply to the simple and complex, the large and the small.
It also reminds me of how effective the link of a chain could be as a teaching tool.
The key to being well is like taking care of the links on a chain.
When one link is weak the rest of the chain suffers.
Wellness means that we care for each link of the chain, our physical, mental, emotional, nutritional, etc.
Each link serves a specific role in the whole and the other links are dependent on the health of each specific link.
While I was at the McKenzie Institute studying the spine, my teacher provided us with an example that has helped me to understand this applies to Wellness.
He lined us up one behind another with our hands on the person in front’s shoulders.
We closed our eyes and he went around gently pushing us so our bodies moved.
What we experienced changed my understanding of the spine, and for that matter the body.
I felt movement no matter whom he pushed.
In other words, moving one person caused everyone else to move.
Each individual link was connected the every other link so much so that one level affected all the other levels.
He used this to show us how important a single level is to the whole. In the lumbar spine if you have a problem at one level it will affect the movement of all the other levels.
This means that to have a healthy spine, the individual joints have to do their job so that all the joints work together.
In a broader view, this means that for the body to move properly the joints of the legs must work with the spine joints and the arm joints.
On an even broader view this means that our nutrition affects the health of our spine, knee and shoulders.
Our sleep affects the health of our kidneys, stomach and gall bladder. Exercise (or no exercise) affects the health of our immune system, skin and teeth.
The stress in our life affects the health of our hair, muscles and bones.
Our bodies are interlocked, just like the links of a chain are all connected directly and indirectly.
A still broader view means that each individual has to play his or her part so that the community can function properly.
When the links start failing the system starts failing.
Fortunately this gives us an opportunity to learn that the path we are on is not the path we want to be on so we can simply turn ourselves around and try another path.
When it comes to the longevity of a chain, taking care of the individual segments means each link can do what it is designed to do.
Sometimes when one link is weak the other links are forced to take on more work than they are accustomed to.
Each segment is designed to play a particular role so that the whole chain can do its job.
When this system fails we fall victim to the common expression “we are only as good as our weakest link.”
Taking care of your physical, but not the emotional, will affect your health and it may even begin to fail.
If you are eating poorly and missing exercise the chain becomes even weaker. The more links you neglect, the more likely the chain will fail (i.e. injury or illness).
When you care for each level, the links are able to do what they are designed to do.
Often our body is trying to help us learn the lesson. How many of us have had back pain from sitting slouched too long?
How many times have we lifted improperly, even though we know it’s bad for our backs?
Our body tries to help us learn by giving us acid reflux, sleepless nights, headaches, muscle spasms or a long list of other symptoms.
We tend to pretend that it doesn’t really matter when these symptoms arise, and more and more we find band-aides for gaping wounds.
The amazing capability of our body misleads us to believe that it neglecting the links doesn’t really matter.
Just like the links of a chain that have been neglected, our bodies begin to show signs of wear and tear.
Fortunately it is possible to take care of each and every link of our body.
We can start by noticing what links are being over worked right now. Put your attention on your whole self. Then begin to work through the entire body and determine if a specific area needs to be addressed. Start with small changes and gradually build up the integrity of the system.
Today a woman told me that she was nervous about attending PT again, because the other clinics she had been to were not helping her reach her goals. She has been suffering with pain for years believing there was nothing anyone could do to help. A friend told her about the warm pool we have and she wanted to see if it would help. Already, (in 2 visits) she is noting improvements. She trusted her body needed to use the pool so she comes from 35-40 minutes away to use it. Her body was right and she is optimistic again for a return to her former self.
A man came to me today with back pain, cholesterol and blood pressure issues and a whole slew of other health issues, but inside he knew it has to be possible to do something.
We all have this inside us, some it is buried deep down, but we all can be well again.
Even those with chronic back pain, or a long history of arthritis can feel better.
Most of us know that there is an area we need help with and now is the time to redirect your path back to the road of wellness.
Of course the easiest way is to care for each link before it starts to fail.
But if you are ready to begin the process there are steps you can take to repair the faulty links. Start repairing the links one at a time.
Decide today to put yourself back together again.
Find people who are knowledgeable in how to guide you back to health.
Start today because if you continue to wait you may experience a chain reaction, one level fails and the ones connected to it also fail and more and more links weaken and fail. If links have already started failing (i.e. injury or illness) the links can still be fixed.
Learn what your body is trying to teach you. If food feels bad after you eat it, (i.e. acid reflux) then start choosing food that feels good after you eat it.
If you are having trouble sleeping, learn meditation to stop your thoughts and relax the body so it is better able to rest.
If you are overweight, start noticing what triggers your food cravings and what excuses do you use to avoid exercise.
If you have pain when you sit slouched change how you sit or stand up instead. Find your weak link and make it your strong one.
Thanks for reading my columns.
Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org.