10-05-09 - Body Fixing

I think I wrote this before (?) but it's been crystallizing in my head more. In the past few weeks I've been really busy and exhausted and have been slacking about maintaining my good body habits, and now my back is killing me and my scap is winging again and I'm a wreck. The thing is, I've kept doing the massage and PT for the most part, but I lost the most important piece of all : maintaining good body usage patterns throughout the day. With that preamble I give you :

The three step process to fixing musculo-structural problems in your body :

1. Tearing down. In this step you try to break your body out of the trap of the old bad habits. You may have pinched nerve pain which is causing you to hunch in weird ways - so first of all you need to ice it and take NSAIDs or whatever to just temporarily make that go away. You probably have tight ropey knotted muscles, so get massage. You probably need to stretch parts that are over-shortened.

This step is crucial, but it actually does nothing to fix the problem or make it go away. You are just trying to temporarily clean the slate so that you can build up again without the bad patterns from the past. If you don't use that clean slate to move on to step 2, it's completely temporary and pointless.

2. Building up. In this step you try to build new patterns and muscles that will hold your body in the right way. This is your Physical Therapy appointment, your home therapy, your exercise, your yoga, etc. This is an hour a day of making your body do the moves very consciously using the right muscles and the right posture and the right sequencing of muscles. If you just go through the moves without being mindful about *how* you are doing them, it's pointless. The point is not to get stronger, it's to retrain which muscles fire for certain motions. Even simple things like sitting up in a chair you need to train your body to do it with the right posture and muscles.

This requires a lot of concentration because if you stop being mindful for a moment, your body will fall back into old habits which it has learned over many years. You have to remember that muscle control and balance and posture and so on mostly go through your reflexive lizard brain, which is really dumb and is trained through repetition. By sitting at a desk have trained your lizard for many years, for many hours every day, to do exactly the wrong thing. If you stop focusing for a second, the lizard takes over and does it's thing. You can use your conscious mind to take over the muscles and override the lizard. You have to do that frequently enough that it starts to pick up the habit on its own. Doing the Physical Therapy once a day is only partly about strengthening, it's as much about the repetition which gives us :

3. Rehabituation : changing your habits. The most important step is adopting the new pattern in your daily life, every hour of every day. The hour a day of physical therapy is a start, but if you do an hour of PT and then go back to bad habits for the rest of the day you will make no progress. Again the PT is pointless unless you use it as a jumping off point to rehabituation : using the right muscles and doing the new body patterns every day for hours.

The real point of this whole process is #3. #1 and #2 are just steps to get to #3. If you don't put in the real effort to rehabituate and make the new patterns the norm in your daily life, then it's all for nought. A lot of people will be in pain and then just get massage, and of course there's no long term benefit. Maybe they'll take the next step and go to a PT and do the exercises, but then every day they go back to old patterns and gain there's no long term benefit. You have to do it all, and you have to really commit to #3 every single day.

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old rants