What I often find in cases of pain and dysfunction, is that there is more going on than you think, often it would have taken a few different ‘stressors’, or a change in your body’s ability to adapt to ‘stressors’, for the body to experience pain or dysfunction, especially when there hasn’t been a ‘traumatic or obvious’ onset. This happens much more so than something being ‘wrong’ with your body. I see patients everyday with body asymmetries and structural factors that could contribute to back problems, shoulder problems or headaches etc, but what is also really important and makes huge differences between good body functioning, patients’ ability to adapt to forces and changes, and a pain free state, is how the patient is living their life. Yes, sometimes there are contributing factors such as a hip or ankle not moving as well as it could do, and then for example affecting the low back’s ability to perform well or cause over strain; that is where I can come in to help! But there’s a whole host of other factors that you can change to really help yourself, which is really exciting!
This brings me on to ‘The Four Pillars’ : Relax, Eat, Move, Sleep. Most things in our day to day lives that we can improve upon, fall within these four simplified categories, and by improving on these things, we can help to prevent aches and pains, recover quicker from them or at least make them less persistent a lot of the time. Dr Rangan Chatterjee, wrote ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’ book which talks about how you can help yourself and improve on these elements to experience better health and wellbeing. It is a great place to start to get you thinking about how well you’re doing in all of these categories, and how you can help yourself.
Today is also World Mental Health day, and so a good time to reflect on how we are feeling in ourselves. Taking the ‘relax’ element from the four pillars mantra, we can focus on whether we do need some help to settle our thoughts, to calm our mind and body from a state of consistent anxiety, stress or depression. I have a few more suggestions below that could be of help to you if you recognise this within yourself:
-The ‘Headspace’ App can be downloaded to your phone or desktop and offers some free taster sessions into mindfulness and meditation. Headspace guides you through simple exercises ranging from ‘letting go of stress’ to bereavement, managing work stress and even sleep therapy. Exercises range from 3 to 15 minutes which makes it very manageable. Access the Headspace App Here.
-If meditation fills you with dread, or you’ve tried it before and feel that you ‘failed’, you may benefit from reading a book called ‘Stress Less, Accomplish More’ by Emily Fletcher, I just read it myself, and it has really helped both my partner and I to feel so much more at ease and more able to cope with life’s stressors! Two things to note if you’re still in doubt; meditation is heavily researched and advocated for its clear health benefits both mentally and physically; so much so that I’m sure GPs will be prescribing this as an essential for all at some point in the near future! also, meditation isn’t about clearing your mind! that is impossible; this practice talks you through how to meditate in the ‘real world’ making it assessable for all.
– Youtube yoga with Adrienne: is a great way to get moving if you feel like you need a stretch out in a relaxed and gentle manner, yoga can be like a moving meditation if you find it hard to do a sitting meditation. It is a good taster to see if you’d like to get into a regular yoga class, or perhaps pilates is more for you. I really like both disciplines, so long as you are doing only what is comfortable and going only to your natural limits, not pushing too far beyond forcefully. For more info on what is right for you and your body please be in touch I’d be happy to try to advise you!
-Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT) which I have completed on a couple of occasions myself, has made such a difference to my life and to others I know who’ve tried it; it can help you with stress, anxiety, sleep problems, phobias, depression, restlessness- the list goes on! And whether you live in Hampshire or Dorset there are excellent and free NHS services providing CBT such as ‘Steps 2 Wellbeing’ where you can self refer without going through your GP; speak to an advisor and see which program could help you best, from 1-1’s, group talks, phone consultations. Give them a try, they’re a lovely bunch of people: Steps 2 Wellbeing link.
Why do I talk about mental health so much?! It is so closely linked to our general wellbeing; not only the mind but the body. How we hold ourselves depends on how we feel. Imagine what happens to your body when we are totally stressed out, tired all the time or anxious? We might clench our teeth, tense our shoulders, hold our breath, breathe shallowly and in the upper ribs rather than nice belly breathing. Compare this with how light we feel in our body when we feel in love, laughing, or just really happy and rested. Stress and anxiety manifests in our body tissues as extra strain and muscular aches, it can make us unwell and negatively affect how we recover from injuries and strains. There is now so much research to demonstrate that these above methods can help us relax and mimic those ‘feel good hormones’, reducing horrid side effects of stress and anxiety, to help us cope better in our daily lives and feel happier. Whether it’s CBT, mindfulness or meditation, there’s so much to gain by trying it out, and why not if it’s free! On that note, here’s my simple diaphragm breathing video to help relax your body, reduce pain and calm the system down, it only takes a few minutes: Diaphragm breathing exercise.
Take time for yourself, feel what’s going on in your body, stop from time to time, and ask yourself whether you’re doing all you can to help yourself feel better, stronger and happier.
If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to be in touch!