I turn 31 this year and it’s time to admit a few things about my body.
This article couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Not every athlete wants to hear it but it is the truth. And even the lucky ones, who have been able to offset their athletic declines through improved technique will never be able to reverse time. As a lifelong athlete and competitor at the highest levels, there are some painful truths I have to face in the mirror.
The truth is:
- My body is not what it was 10 years ago.
- I am closer to 40 than I am to 20.
- I am not as invincible as I used to be.
- I will one day have to quit my sport (at least at the high level or risk hurting my quality of life).
Haha… was that too dramatic? Am I being too-emotional or overly sensitive about my age and declining physical outputs?
While certain things such as strength can improve with age, actually…power, speed, and many other things do not. I am certain that I don’t carry the same raw power and speed I used to have. My technique does make up for it but I know I’m not the same as before.
One thing that is for certain…my body requires more care and maintenance. Better nutrition, better rest, better caution. And finally…there is the reality of injury. For many people who don’t use their body to its full limit, having an injury means not being able to do something for a week. But to an athlete, an injury is a loss of freedom, loss of power to enjoy life and even a loss of identity. Imagine taking away the vision of a painter. I imagine all injured athletes feel like painters who have tragically lost their vision.
I don’t even know what’s worse. Losing the function entirely or regaining the function but not at full capacity. It is a nightmare for the athlete! Dreams are over. Reality sets in. And you don’t know what to do with yourself anymore. (In fact, one of the reasons I started dancing was to give my body a break from all the strenuous boxing activity.)
Well this article is about reality. The painful truths. And it is also about hope.
Believe it or not…science and the miracle of the human body is on your side.
I am not a doctor or medical expert by any means. My experience is not complete nor meant to be universally representative of all athletes. Please take my word with a grain of salt. Consult and seek out the experts who can help you best. Believe nothing, try everything!
My Injury History
Seriously? Am I about to do this right now? Does anybody care? In the grand scheme of things, my body is actually pretty fine. I feel fine and can do any physical movement and am generally far more durable than anybody else I know. I’d say I’m about as injury-free as they come. Anyway…feel free to skip this if none of it is relevant to you. I go over a few examples of muscle problems as well as joint problems that I remember over the years.
Chronic left shoulder tension
My left trap muscle has always been tense for as long as I can remember. I feel like it started happening when I was 11 years old and had just entered middle school. Probably because my middle school books were too heavy and I had to carry it for long periods of time while walking to school. Being too lazy to put my backpack on all the way at times, I would wear it only on the right side (slung off the right shoulder). I was really short and small and maybe that wrecked my body development for a bit, as my shoulders started to slump unevenly to the right side. It also bothered me that friends would comment from time to time that I walked with my right shoulder down (left shoulder up) a lot.
When I was 12 years old, I caught on to the issue as I started noticing the asymmetry in my shoulders and tried to correct it by wearing my backpack on my left side instead. I would continue to wear the backpack on my left side for the next 6 years (throughout my grade school) in hopes of evening out my shoulders. It didn’t work. If anything, my left trap muscle grew even stronger and bigger further exacerbating my grotesque asymmetry.
I spent the next 20 years of my life trying to consciously even out my shoulders throughout the day. Sometimes practicing in the mirror by closing my eyes, adjusting the shoulders, and then opening my eyes again to see if I had aligned my shoulders correctly. It was a strange conscious act and while it did help to improve my appearance, it never changed the problem.
It also doesn’t help that I spent the last 10 years boxing and throwing a billion jabs a day. I’m pretty sure that does anything but relax the left trap muscle.
Right knee instability
At the age of 24 (about 6 years ago), I jumped off a set of 10 stairs with my skateboard and landed on my right knee. Yes…I know it’s crazy and I’m amazed I never broke anything. I did feel some kind of knee sprain but I was for the most part fine. I walked it off and the knee did feel a bit weaker for a few weeks or so and then was “back to normal”.
Except only, my knee never felt quite like new again. It didn’t hurt me but it definitely didn’t feel as strong as the left knee and it also felt more susceptible to pain under extreme conditions. I was still able to live out my extreme athletic lifestyle throughout the years but I was always aware that the right knee was “the weak one”.
About 2 years ago, in the midst of some strenuous dance training, I had strained the right knee terribly from the result of poor technique and lead to sharp pains in the knee. Some inflammation and swelling was present and I was worried that I had torn my meniscus. Fortunately after an expert diagnosis, the doctor said all I had was patellofemoral syndrome (inflammation of the knee-cap). Which was no big deal, just inflammation (tiredness of the joint) and that it would go away and return to normal as long as I rest and fix my technique.
Being that I still dance regularly, I am continually aware that my right knee continues to be the unstable one.
Right knee pain
Learning how to do crazy spins in my dance classes has stressed my knees like no other activity I know. At one point, I seriously feared that I had torn my meniscus but this turned out to be OK after all. There was pain, soreness, and swelling in the knee. And it hurt to stand straight as well as to bend the knee. Resting from dance would make the pain go away but it always came back and very quickly after I started dancing again. The pain did finally go away when I improved my technique.
I’ve had tight hamstrings since I was 10 years old. I remember having friends in martial arts who could do the splits and/or bend down and touch their toes etc with ease while I had a hard time in this stretches. I felt especially disadvantage considering that I was a short person but with the limited flexibility more often found in taller persons. The tight hamstrings have never caused me any pain or problems but my knees don’t lock and I hear it can lead to injuries and or inefficiency in muscle performance.
Right ankle sprain
Skateboarding incident when I was 15. Fall off a bunch of stairs and landed on my foot with the ankle rolled inwards. It’s amazing nothing broke. I limped for a month and never noticed anything wrong with it again.
Left shoulder spasms
After long boxing sessions, the outside shoulder muscle would spasm on its own as if its own little heart beating from inside the shoulder. Really creepy.
Lower back pain
Imagine going about your day normally and all of the sudden, you feel a sharp pain in your lower back and your back just gives out and you collapse. Sometimes it happens when you’re lifting heavy or climbing in a weird position. Other times when you’re doing something common like bending over to tie your shoelaces. It’s a crippling pain that takes away your ability to move for a little while and probably scares you into good posture for the next couple weeks.
I’ve since learned this is extremely common and even among-st people as young as 20. Has something to do with the spine cartilage wearing out over the years from the weight of the upper body or something like that. Don’t quote me.
Left upper torso dominance
My left chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles are significantly stronger (and also noticeably bigger) than on my right side. And it’s funny because my right side is the dominant side. However the right side has the stronger bicep and lat muscles.
Can you remember all the injuries you ever had? Which ones stayed and which ones went away? And what steps did you take in trying to heal them?
Failed Attempts at Healing
When I say failed attempts, I mean that my problem was not resolved after numerous efforts. And it is more a failure of my knowledge in understanding my body rather than the failure of the different healing disciplines and experts I consulted. I still respect and recommend many of those methods as part of a comprehensive healing process.
But I have to be honest and when looking back I do see that sure, many things in my body did improve and become stronger or more flexible or improved but the bottom line was: my problem was still there.
You have to be cautious that when you speak to an expert from any one discipline, they tend to approach your problem from the narrowed view within the limits of their expertise. There is a saying called “The Law of the Instrument” that goes: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” As can be expected, a surgeon will recommend his best surgical procedure just as a masseuse practitioner will recommend her best massage and a physical therapist will recommend his best rehabilitation techniques.
If all you have is a hammer,
everything looks like a nail.
Common Sense Remedy
Common sense remedies to me are things that are free and obvious actions you should take immediately after an injury to notice of decreased performance or athletic impairment. Resting, taking a break, applying hot & cold treatment, putting on athletic tape, or wearing a knee brace. The list goes on and on. The basic idea is to rest, take it easy, and take some preventative measures to prevent the injury from getting worse.
This is usually the first thing people will try when they experience muscle tension or stiffness in the body. It feels good and doesn’t cost all that much. Just “a little work on the shoulder” is all you need and the tension will go away. Well I tried it and while it did go away, the results weren’t lasting for me. I would probably need a shoulder massage at least once every 2 days and also a conscious effort to relax my shoulders to keep them in a constant state of relaxation. The moment I start throwing jabs, it’s like OHHH—there goes my left shoulder again!
Acupuncture is one of those misunderstood arts (at least when speaking from the standpoint of a common person). I have no idea of the limits of what it can do. I hear it can do miracles but I also hear it can be totally useless. I’ve tried it several times. Sometimes I felt nothing, other times I felt something. And sometimes I wonder if it’s just the idea of me laying down in a peaceful state (with nice background music) that has more do with the treatment than the actual needles themselves. Anyway…they didn’t cure my problem. If anything, they made me more hopeful and optimistic about recovery…which is pretty easy to do when you’re at the end of your will and now starting to believe in miracles than logical options for recovery.
Haha…I did it myself so it was probably 0% effective and my experience should not be representative of cupping therapy whatsoever. I bought some suction cup thing-eys from Ebay and stuck them all over my back and body. I did get the weird bumps and while it was cool and MAYYYYBE did something, the results were hardly lasting. If anything, cupping seemed to ease the pain by giving you something else more distracting to think about.
Foam Rolling & Massage Balls
I’ve tried rolling out the tension in my body. I think it’s better than nothing. It helps to kill time while you’re talking with friends after a workout. It didn’t make any lasting impression on my healing.
Yoga & Stretching
I really enjoy the world of stretching. Up until recently, I seriously thought it was nothing more than pulling your muscles until they hurt. Well, it’s a bit more involved than that. Breathing and relaxing and different motions for different purposes. Static vs dynamic stretching. And then tricking your body to make it stretch further. It’s a real science and a complete new world of its own.
I did get stronger, more flexible, more aware of my body. Everything better, but no, my problems didn’t go away. Not even a little bit. For some, yoga can be the cure to life. For me…it was a great way to get a good workout that was different from the type of exercises that guys usually do in the gym.
I only had a limited introductory experience with these and found it to be bland. Much of what was said was common sense and without truly insightful knowledge. I can’t help but feel like I knew more about the subject of aligning my body than the practitioners themselves. It’s the feeling of like when a boxer goes into a karate club and sees that the karate students aren’t all that great at punching. And it’s not so much the discipline but perhaps the practitioners that are found within the discipline. With that being said, I don’t think I ever really met a true rolfing or Alexander technique expert and for that reason, I cannot comment any further on these methods.
Strength & Conditioning
Ahhh the good old strength and conditioning! I could talk about this one forever. Basically the idea is you fix any physical problems by training it out, eliminating problem areas by making the “weak muscles” stronger. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. If someone has a weak hip, you strengthen all the muscles around the area like the back muscles, glute muscles, leg muscles. It really makes sense. The reality is while your muscle gets stronger which can help alleviate the problem somewhat, it never fixes your problem—or at least not for me.
Their remedy will always be to make that muscle stronger, but all that strength won’t do you any good if your body does not make use of it.
Physical Therapy & Rehab
This is where you see a specialist, hopefully someone with knowledge in working with athletes. They prescribe you exercises to help you regain your motor functions and body control after an injury or surgery. The exercises (and stretches) are designed to strengthen the weak muscles in your body to heal and become strong and functional again. It’s kind of like the strength & conditioning approach but far more scientific and specifically targeted and with the use of a more qualified expert. The results I’ve had with physical therapy was that while my condition did improve, I never went back to 100%. Sheeesh, does ANYBODY ever go back to 100% Am I asking for too much?
I consulted with an orthopaedic surgeon to make absolutely sure that I was being looked by the most knowledgeable. His diagnosis? “Don’t worry. Nothing’s wrong with your knee, no surgery required. Here are some rehab exercises, and few ways to check your movement in the mirror.” And that was that. He said all I had was some inflammation probably from over-use or from practicing a new movement skill and that was it.
I’ve heard many things about how the body is a reflection of the mind. How many aspects of your mental health and emotional health are connected to different parts of your body. And to be honest, it sounds to me like one of those chicken or the egg things. Is it the mental problems that are reflected in the body? Or body problems that are reflected in the mind?
I was told that certain parts of my body held tension because of certain mental problems I was dealing with. (By “mental”, I mean like things like stress and fear and moments in life I supposedly haven’t overcome. I don’t mean “mental” in the crazy psychiatric ward type of way.) And that in order to heal my body, I would have to heal my mind first and change my outlook on life, etc, etc. Well…I was honestly under the impression that my knee was messed up because I fell and hit the floor and not because I worry too much in life or something like that. But you know, when you get desperate to fix your problems, you’re willing to believe anything you hear.
The Miracle People
Throughout all the therapists and “healers” I consulted over the years, there were really only 2 that made any real difference. This is like a crazy story probably best left for Hollywood scripts but I tell it because it was not only true and entertaining but because this is what it took to make any progress towards my healing.
I had a friend who was a successful businesswomen from Asia and also lives part time in Los Angeles. She’s got her hand in many businesses, just successful at everything that she does. She’s a well-known public figure, consultant, speaker, spiritually-conscious person, and more. It’s hard to explain who she is. Let’s just say a modern-day Mother Teresa or like a Taiwanese Oprah for now. Anyway…she always has a good sense about people she comes across in daily life. The moment she feels she can help them along in their life, she does anything that she can for them. Which is kind of how her and I came to be friends.
Moving on…she was suffering from knee injuries and consulting with top doctors around the world. They all suggested that she needed surgery and she refused to believe it. She went looking around for alternative healing methods and ultimately found a poor boy working in the streets of Taiwan. His Taiwanese name is something hard for people to pronounce and so we all call him Fox. Well Fox was working as like a street masseuse, touching and healing passers-by through his hands. My friend was impressed by his natural talent and brought him back to the states to help him get on his feet and hopefully push him to open his own practice. He lived in here in the US at her my friend’s house (a very big house, by the way).
And so I met Fox.
He was a young guy, tall, with relaxed muscles. He didn’t speak any English and worked with a translator. He asked me what I was looking to heal and then got straight to work. The instructions were pretty simple: lay down, relax, let go of your body, and if you need to…bite the towel. It didn’t take me very long to understand why they gave everyone a towel.
The guy was a master interrogator in disguise as a masseuse. He basically touched around my body and wherever he felt an area that hurt me, he dug in harder and deeper until it hurt 10 times more. And then only when he was absolutely sure that he had figured out what hurt me the most, he would stand up and with his feet put all of his body weight on it. The most ingenious revelation that I noticed was that Fox didn’t speak any English and the translator never told him anything that was I yelling out loud.
I screamed straight for about 75 minutes. It really is an art. Without using much force, he can find all the most painful pressure points in your body. It felt like his hands dug straight through my muscle and massaged at the bones. Sometimes it felt like he was tearing my spine in half. Sometimes it felt like he was sawing off my shoulders simply by rubbing my fingers. Other times it felt like somebody poured burning acid over my legs when he stepped on my calves. I screamed to high holy hell the whole time. I imagine the neighbors would have probably thought that somebody was being killed. I did in fact feel that I had lost the will to live. I have never felt a worse pain and for longer duration in my life. I think most people would have easily opted for surgery rather than to live through this.
Afterward the torture session, Fox began to explain what he did and what he found. He explains his practice as “Chinese Martial Arts”. I kept asking if his practice had another name or if he meant “Martial Arts massage” and he had no answer. It didn’t make sense to me as I define Martial Arts as fighting but I guess in China, martial arts is a way of life and the word can apply to many things.
He also began to explain many things he felt in my body. Amazingly enough, without me telling him he explained the whole story of my body’s injuries, even reminding me of injuries that I hadn’t previously disclosed to him. He was able to describe what kind of injury I sustained and how it affected other parts of my body. Many parts of the body are connected even when they don’t seem like it. And with this logic, it’s easy to see how certain parts can break down because of past injuries to other parts. Fox was even able to talk about my eating habits, sleeping habits, emotional habits, mental habits, sex habits and briefly talk about other things that are so far away from what anybody could guess in a cold reading. It was kind of like I got a 75-min full-body palm reading. He prescribed me to different things I should be doing differently in my life and sent me on my way.
I wish I asked him how he learned and maybe I did but forgot the answer. From what I do remember, he simply has the talent. He understands what he feels in the body. The muscular strength, organ strength, injury history, and so much more about a person. He can see all through touching a person’s body.
And now…what do I have to say about the progress? (After 3 visits.) Hehe…the impact was not lasting. He did however make the most difference compared to anyone else before him. I did feel much better but I imagine that I would have to go through torture sessions every month to maintain a balance in my body. (I’m really not so sure I want to do that!) What Fox did give me however was more of a blueprint on what areas to work on. And so when I received massages in the future, I would point to different areas rather than the ones that were hurting.
Meeting Dr. Roy
I found Roy through a referral. He’s got a PhD in Chiropractic as well as a masters degree in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. He’s also studying Eastern medicine and alternative healing, and also holds certificates and completed training in neuromuscular stabilization and other techniques specific to manual medicine and chiropractic care. Or to make it short, he’s got a combination of Western & Eastern healing, sports & rehab, neuromuscular & spine. He was one of the top students in his class and also works under another world-renowned guy who works on the top athletes. Or if you ask him, he considers himself a specialist in movement. (ANNNNND he speaks English. :))
Let’s start with this, one visit to this guy was what inspired me to write this whole article. I had been trying to heal my body over the years and did not feel I had enough to write a full story until now. I see the light, and I understand so much more about my body. For that, I am grateful…really very lucky to have learned all this while I am still young and capable of doing many more things.
So what happened during the first session?
He had me explain to him my injury history and problems that I perceived in my body. Then he had me lay down and start feeling around with his hands. Like Fox, he knew exactly which points caused me the most pain. I didn’t have to explain or scream or tell him what I was feeling. He ran his hands down the muscle and joints and easily figured out exactly which areas had the most tension or were the most likely to cause pain. And I’d say he also easily knew which kinds of movements were the most difficult for me without actually having seen me perform the movements.
Being uncontainably curious, I asked how he understood my body so well through touch and he answered:
“The top athletes in the world are built like
cotton wrapped in steel.
You can push all the way to the inside.
Everything is relaxed and nothing resists.”
Like Fox, he started to make interesting observations about my injuries…drawing connections from one part’s failure to other parts. It turns out my right knee wasn’t weak at all, it was the right hip that was weak. And the right hip was weak because of my left shoulder being overworked. And my left shoulder was overworked because it refused to let my right shoulder handle the work. And my right shoulder wasn’t working because it had previously been injured. And so forth and so forth, he was telling the story of a domino effect causing my entire body to fall out of balance from over-compensating for itself. He also explained away the “common symptoms” such as having a lowered right shoulder. (It’s common for the left shoulder to be higher because of the way the organs are distributed in the body and the difference in size of the lungs. And that I shouldn’t worry because my situation was far more symmetrical than most others.)
He started testing my body’s range of motion and through the failure of certain exercises, he quickly figured out what else was going wrong in my body. He made me aware of many problems that I didn’t know about. I could see very quickly that the muscles on one side of my body would activate differently from the same muscles on the other side. How much of it is an actual muscle limitation and how much of it is simply a habitual muscle reflex, I don’t know. Continuing on, he started to explain that I didn’t actually have any real “problems”. My body was quite functional, and had more than enough muscle to support itself. My real problem…which also happens to be where his specialty lies…was in the body’s neurological system.
I will briefly explain what I learned in that session in the following paragraphs…
Look at the whole body vs only one part
He explained that most bodyworkers do not look at or do not understand the whole of the human body. They are often only looking at one part (arm, leg, body) or only at one layer (muscle/bone/fascia) and because of this they are unable to provide a solution that is integrated well into the rest of the body. The other part of it is that most bodyworkers do not understand how the body moves itself. These “other” practitioners only understand the bone and muscle aspects of body movement and not so much the neurological aspect.
Because of this lack of understanding, he finds that most practitioners can only diagnose and tend to the injuries directly, rather than to see the overall imbalance in the body and to find all sources of the problem. And also because of their lack of understand how the body moves itself, they are only able to heal the body in the terms of direct muscle strength and isolated movement rather than to retrain the injured part to not only full musculoskeletal function but also full neurological function.
The best bodyworkers can see the entire body
(all areas and layers)
rather than only the problem area.
There is also the aspect of how many bodyworkers will misdiagnose a part of the body. It’s common for many practitioners to say that your body is fine or that a certain area is fine because you can only see it from a limited perspective. For example, a surgeon as well as a physical therapist both told me that my knee was fine and that I had nothing to worry about. Their reasoning was that the muscle was fine because it was strong and functional within a full range of motion. And that the joint was fine because it was healthy and without inflammation or looseness or tightness and also mobile within it’s full range of motion. One visit to Roy and he was like, “Blah, don’t listen to them. Your knee is clinically fine, but I can see that it still doesn’t move well and not functioning properly.”
The Importance of the Neurological Layer
The nervous system is especially responsible for your body’s movements. The neurological layer connects everything to your brain, your muscles and bones and all movements to your brain. It connects to your conscious as well as your subconscious. It tells you how to move. It tells you when something hurts. It tells you how far you can stretch. It tells you how powerful you can be.
I don’t know if you’ve read around. But your body is far stronger and more flexible and capable than you are aware of. The reason why you haven’t been able to experience it is because your nervous system won’t let it go to full capacity in order to protect itself. For example, the reason why you lack flexibility has less to do with stretching and muscle flexibility and more to do with your nervous system forcing your muscles to contract because it “thinks” that you can’t safely go any further. If you look around on the internet, you will find many stretching methods out there that attempt to circumvent this neurological limit in order to “trick” your body.
You can also look around on the internet to read about how to unlock your true power potential. There are exercises that are perhaps better for training your nervous system to fire more powerfully and release more of your potential with each movement. Some of it sounds like conventional training advice, some of it sounds old fashion, and some of it sounds like some really weird stuff from outer-space. I remember reading about how powerful the body really is by looking at how a person’s body jumps across the room when it gets electrocuted. It isn’t the electricity that propels them, it’s because the electricity activates the muscle to its full potential and it is the person’s MUSCLES that push them all the way across the room.
Body movement repair should also focus on the neurological layer of your body,
not only the muscle, bone, and fascia layers.
But more important than power and flexibility, your nervous system is like a manual or communication system that tells your body how to use itself. In what way and in which manner, down to the precise details. Quite often, body injuries and ailments are not only from the result of actual physical damage but because the body’s nervous system is making your body use itself in an unnatural way.
But first let’s talk about what IS the “natural way” in which the body moves itself.
How the Body Learns to Move
I was taught how the body learns to move, which starts from baby’s immobile curled-up fetal position to a crawl, to a standing position, and ultimately to a fully-mobile running and jumping outwardly expressive physical instrument. I won’t actually go through the movements and explain how little-by-little each limb and muscle group activates itself but I can briefly describe what he explained.
The fetal position is the natural resting state of the body because from this curled position, all your vital organs are protected, your body heat is best retained, and your hands are still close to feed yourself. From this fetal position, which is very submissive, the body thinks it is stressed and so it releases the cortisol hormone, which helps you deal with stress by shutting down functions your body such as TESTOSTERONE PRODUCTION to help you deal with the problem at hand. (Inversely, you can increase your testosterone by putting yourself in a dominant alpha position such as standing straight up with all limbs stretched out.)
As a baby, you start in the fetal position and little by little you start to learn how to move yourself. First by wiggling your head around to look at things. Then by wiggling your arms, legs, hands and feet. Then comes the more complicated stuff such as figuring out how to roll over and crawl. And ultimately, how to get up onto your feet and walk in perfect balance. Lots of counter-balance work and coordination going on along all sides and ends of the spine here. Many motor skills are being developed and patterned into your nervous system in a natural way in these critical early years of your life.
As a child, you go through a phase of learning how to move and developing “natural movement”. You are also earning your movement each step of the way as each new movement skill cannot be achieved until a critical one has been learned before it. And by “natural movement”, I mean that the movement is perfectly coordinated to use your body’s muscles and joints the way it was designed maximizing the amount of leverage that can be created, efficiently, and safely.
Everything pretty much goes smoothly…until you injure yourself and either lose the physical ability to move or the coordination to move NATURALLY…
PROPER Rehab After Injury
How the body compensates during injury, and importance of PROPER rehab after injury.
Basically, when you are injured somewhere in your body, that muscle or area is shut down and reduced to limited function and mobility in order to facilitate healing. And likewise the other muscle groups in the surrounding areas or in complementing areas kick to compensate for this injured area. This is natural and commonly understood. Such as when one leg cannot walk as well, the other leg will naturally work harder. Other muscles such as from the back or hips may work extra to help support the leg. This temporary imbalance in your body is required to give your injured area a break from use and to repair itself.
What isn’t commonly known is how your body returns to its normal state of equilibrium (muscle balance) after the injury has been healed. Just as your body LEARNED to move itself when you were a baby, your body must once again learn how to move itself when you regain the function of a previously injured/inactive limb. You need some kind of proper rehab exercise to tell your body (the neural system) that you’ve healed and for the muscles to re-coordinate and re-trigger themselves into the right way that allows all body parts to return to their natural duty and do their part. In other words, you have to re-earn your movement. You can’t just tear off the bandages and jump around in celebration, the rest of your body needs to be reprogrammed to shift the responsibility back over the recovered limb.
The common problem lies in the way athletes are rehabilitated. After the healing phase of the injury, most rehabilitation programs only focus on strengthening and mobilizing the muscles around the injured area. What they don’t focus on (or are unable to see) are the neurological connections between the injured area and everywhere else within the body. They also fail to retrain the entire body to re-coordinate and come back into balance THE NATURAL WAY. What often happens next is that while the athlete will have a healthily repaired and capable muscle, the nervous system thinks the injury is still there and not only that but now other injuries start to appear (often in seemingly unrelated muscle groups). This is because the body has not yet returned to balance and other muscles are still compensating (now considered over-compensating) for an injured area that doesn’t need help. One imbalance creates another imbalance and you’re bound to get injured again before you know it because your body isn’t using itself properly.
Hope for the future?
I’m really fascinated by how much I continue to learn about the human body. The way it moves, functions, and responds to different stimuli. We live with our bodies each and every day and yet there is still so much we do not know about it. I like to think of the body as being similar to my mind. Right when I start to think our lives and bodies have been genetically predetermined, I realize we have only barely scratched the surface of our true potential.
Being that we fighting athletes push our bodies harder to the extreme than anybody else I know, I hope that you find a way to live in harmony with your body. And to use it to bring you pleasure in life rather than pain.
Other great resources I’ve found on the body and healing concepts:
- The Top 5 Ways Fascia Matters to Athletes
- Resistance Flexibility with Bob Cooley – The Genius of Flexibility
If you’re suffering from a chronic injury and never seen a physical therapist, I suggest you start looking around. Sure, it will cost money but for the benefit of having a better body to live with for the rest of your life? It’s worth it. Unlike a car which we can replace over and over, we are only given one body in life. And we have to take care of it. And it’s easy to give up on your body and just accept our problems as “oh that’s just the way it’s gonna be forever” but you have to believe in yourself and trust that you can make it better for you.