By VANESSA HAMPTON
Most of us tend to underestimate our body and what it can do. I see it every day and used to do the same thing myself. We are a society of pills and surgeries and quick fixes. If we feel pain that doesn’t subside immediately, we turn to modern medicine for the solution without giving our body a chance to use its own power to heal us. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not against doctors. I adore my doctor and trust her implicitly. There is absolutely a place and time for pills and/or surgery. It’s just that sometimes I believe we jump too quickly to those options without first seeking out a solution within our own selves.
The human body is fascinating. We have a natural ability to heal if we work with the simplistic needs of our body. It begins with how we fuel ourselves, the same way we fuel our cars. Good nutrition takes care of so many things. The foods we choose to put in our body will make every difference in how our digestion works, how our joints and muscles feel, how much energy we have every day, and even how emotionally stable we are. Not to mention how high our risk of disease is. When we are suffering with any illness; mind, body, or spirit; taking a look at the nutrients we are supplying our body with, and giving it the resources it needs (instead of making it fight just to process the junk that tastes good), will make every difference in our health.
The body also needs to move. It’s how we are designed. All too often, we only think of exercise as a necessity to keep our weight under control or make us look good in our clothes. In reality, this is the least important reason we should exercise. Our joints were made to move in different directions. That’s why we are able to bend our knees when we sit, hinge at the hips and pick something up off of the floor, rotate our shoulders to reach for something in a high cabinet, and turn our neck to see the car in the lane beside us. However, the joints don’t work alone. Our muscles are there to support them. They are a team. So, if the muscles are sitting around all the time watching tv and being lazy (not exercising), the joints have to take up the slack and this is where pain starts to come in.
On the flip side, if we are not moving all our joints in different directions regularly, they tighten up. When they tighten up, the muscles are not able to move freely like they should. For example, if the hips get tight, the muscles leading to the low back are not able to stretch like they should when we hinge. This is when we begin to feel that back talk to us. The hips are also connected to the knees via the top part of the leg. If the leg muscles are not able to move freely, this means the knee joint can’t bend like it’s supposed to, causing knee pain. This, in turn, can extend even further into the lower legs; calves, ankles, and feet; because our body is having to move differently to compensate for everything bound up at the hip. It’s all connected!
With this in mind, and in the same way that simple nutrition changes can help us from the inside, there are things we can also do from the outside to help our body heal. If our muscles are struggling, stimulating blood flow to them, and breaking up any bound-up tissue around them, can make a big difference. Some ways we can do this are through therapeutic massage, foam rolling, and (for more stubborn issues) dry needling. If our joints are tight, we can be intentional about joint opening exercises and stretches to get them moving again. If our muscles need to rest and heal, we can assist them with ice and heat therapy, muscle rubs, and even portable tens units, which can provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort allowing the body more time to do its work in healing.
The moral of the story is that you don’t have to fear the worst when pain creeps in. I have seen people avoid the doctor because they didn’t want a pill or surgery, and I have also seen people that jump too quickly to medicine. Listen to your body and surround yourself with a team of professionals that, not only know medicine, but also can help you work with your body’s natural ability to heal. With a little understanding and a change in perspective, patience and persistence may be all you need.
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V and Body Balance Massage & Wellness, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, Fitness Coach, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv @bbmassageandwellness or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.