This is a very loaded question if you ask me! In referring to Essentrics®, a balanced body means that all 650 muscles, 360 joints, 205 bones and all the surrounding connective tissue are functioning evenly so that not one area of the body is working harder. If one area of the body is working harder that means the muscles may be tighter (agonist) and the opposing may be looser or weaker (antagonist). This can create imbalance, which can lead to pain.
In order to know how to be balanced its important to understand how imbalances occur. Our bodies are meant to function seamlessly through life-even as we age! So how is it we seem to get more aches and pains as we get older? It is not necessarily linked to our chronological age but rather attributed to how long our bodies have been exposed to environments that cause those imbalances. So, how hard have you been on your body throughout the years? Remember that 21 year old daredevil you once were? Never thought that would eventually creap up on you, huh? 😉
Imbalances, throughout life, are caused by many different things: habits, work environment, recreational activities, injuries, surgeries, scar tissue, muscle cell atrophy including a sedentary lifestyle! When our bodies are imbalanced compensations natually occur (because our bodies are just so smart!)
Say, for example, your left shoulder has been giving you pain and you cannot raise it past your ear. In order to reach something from a tall cabinet you lean your body to the right to reach higher since your shoulder will not go any further. In the long run this causes tightness in the muscles on your right side: your opposing spinal muscles, latissumus dorsi and obliques, for example, which are now causing pain in your lower back, all from compensation. We are not a body made up of separate muscles but rather muscle and connective tissue chains that communicate with one another to function. If one area is weak, another area will compensate so we do not completely become disabled from the first sign of imbalance. (An imbalance we may be unaware of!) And unfortunately those imbalances, if left untreated, can lead to pain.
So what can be done?
- Be mindful of postures throughout the day. For example: sleeping, standing, sitting, working, carrying groceries, kids, etc.
- Understand how you feel in these positions. Does your lower back hurt because you stand with one foot propped up on the other, causing your hips to deviate? Do you hold the phone hands-free between your ear and your shoulder stressing your neck muscles and cervical vertebra? What areas of the body do you feel pain and in what positions do you feel the pain the most?
- Make a log. Write down the areas of the body you feel strain or pain when involved in repetitive motions, standing or sitting. Or better yet, have someone take pictures of you (secretly) so you can understand what you look like in different postures throughout the day.
- Find a therapeutic fitness class. By “therapeutic” I mean a class, such as Essentrics®, that focuses on all working parts of the body in balanced way. It should be easy on the body, work from toes and feet to hands and head. The program you select should not only improve flexibility and strength but help you gain more awareness of how your body functions and should function.
- Find an acupuncturist to do dry needling into deeper tissue, a massage therapist who specializes in Myofascial Release techniques and/ or learn how to use a foam roller to release tight or toxin filled fascia (connective tissue). Most of the time pain stems from the connective tissue rather than the muscles because of the higher percentage of nerves in the tissue.
- Relax. To make a positive difference in how your body works it is important to relax-both mentally and physically. Breathe deeply and slowly and allow time to feel what your body feels, good and bad.
- Find a specialist. When needed, find a specialist in body mechanics such as a physical therapist, sports trainer or therapeutic exercise specialist.
It is important to know that imbalances can be a detriment to the body and it’s daily functions. Know that you are not alone in this! There are many, like myself, who have made it their life’s work to help! Stay tuned for my next post!
“The Pain-Free Program.” By: Anthony B. Carey, Founder of Function First®
“Forever Painless.” By: Miranda Esmonde-White, Founder of Essentrics®