Here at Rebalance Sports Medicine I see a wide range of injuries-shoulder, knee, neck, low back, elbow…and the list goes on. Sometimes people remember a specific instance where they hurt themselves such as during a sport or helping a friend move heavy furniture. However, many of the people I see can’t pinpoint a specific incident that caused their ache or pain. Their story usually indicates that their pain just started gradually and has been a lot worse in the past week or month. Often the issue has been manifesting in some way for a year or more before a person will seek my help. This scenario is all too common! These gradual onset injuries that seem to creep up and get out of control for no reason whatsoever are usually caused by the way we move, or don’t move day in and day out: the way we sit at work and in the car, the way we walk down the street, how we carry our heavy bag/purse, the strategy we use to bend over, how we carry our children and so on. These sneaky injuries can become incredibly painful and downright debilitating. There must be something that can be done about it…
Body awareness is integral to injury rehabilitation and prevention. It involves knowing where one’s body is in space and tuning in to the messages from one’s muscles, organs, bones, and connective tissue. It is well known in the yoga and dance worlds where athletes will dedicate significant amounts of time attending to the movement and sensation at each area of the body during both isolated movements and manoeuvres involving the whole body. Tuning in to body awareness is not difficult but does take time and dedication and often requires the help of a trained professional such as a physiotherapist. Many of my patients tell me that they have learned so much about their body and poor postural habits after coming to see me for their aches and pains. It is important that my clients learn about their body so that they are able to prevent the same issue from recurring again a few months or years down the road.
When body awareness is lacking we allow our bodies to remain in potentially harmful positions for prolonged periods of time or we persist in performing activities using poor postures and non-optimal movement patterns which can lead to injury. When a part of the body has been injured the tissue integrity can be compromised, there is usually pain, and with pain awareness of that body region is decreased further. Often, individuals use compensation strategies and will move differently to avoid feeling the pain and discomfort. This leaves the area prone to further injury and can even cause injury in other regions of the body. It is important to seek out treatment from a physiotherapist when you are feeling pain. They will help you to resolve your pain, promote tissue healing and help you become more aware of your body to prevent re-injury in the future.
It is easy to start some body awareness training on your own as well. Bring your attention to your posture right now as you read this article. Don’t change anything – just notice how your arms, shoulders, neck, head, back, legs, and feet are positioned. How do they feel? Is there strain or stress anywhere? Could you change something to decrease that? Is your body weight shifted to one side or do you feel centred? When you correct your posture, do you feel tension or strain elsewhere? Do your muscles fatigue quickly when you are in good posture? One helpful tool for keeping track of your posture is to set an alarm that goes off throughout the day in order to remind you check in with your body regularly.
Whether you already have an injury or you would like to learn more about your body, an assessment with one of our registered physiotherapists is the place to start. We also have highly trained Pilates instructors who offer one-on-one training – another excellent way to become better acquainted with your muscles, breathing, and posture.
Don’t forget that during the months of November and December we are offering free 1-hour Yoga classes from 6pm to 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Yoga is another great way to learn about your body and become aware of muscle imbalances and asymmetries that are likely affecting your posture!
Contact us today and let us help you become more body aware!
Written By: Heather McNeil, RPT and Yoga Instructor