How do we maximize our physical wellness? What maintenance should we do on a regular basis to stay as active and healthy as possible? “Maintenance” may be a dirty word in physical therapy, since it doesn’t often get reimbursed by insurance, but I think it’s great. It’s proactive, responsible, and prudent to stay on top of your health the same way you would for your home, car, or lawn mower. Doing occasional “tune-ups” with my patients is much easier than managing acute flare-ups that always seem to happen at the worst time.
You can replace that car, house, or lawn mower. But you only get one body. Here are some habits I’ve observed from some of my healthiest patients:
Learn How to Breathe Properly
Everything in the body ties into the breath on a mechanical level. Muscle tension, fluid flow, craniosacral rhythm, everything… I have had people take 5 good diaphragmatic breaths and loosen their tight shoulders and hips as a result of it. Movement begins with proper inspiration. Learn how to do this and make it a habit.
Walk or Hike Frequently
Walking is what our bodies are built for. It’s low impact, great for our spine health (Read: 5 Secrets for a Healthy Spine), and can be good cardio too. When we walk, our muscles work in such a way that they better stabilize our spinal joints, which benefits the rest of the body- (See our earlier blog on Why Your Spine Health is Most Important of All). Hiking and getting out on uneven surfaces is even better. So is a small amount of barefoot walking around the home.This works all the muscles of the legs the way the system had evolved to do. If you’re in acute pain, I wouldn’t recommend this yet, but as a general activity, it might be the best wellness exercise there is. Try it for a full week. 30 minutes or more each day. See what you notice about your posture and muscle tone!
This is another way of saying “be smart”. Make sure you’re sitting with good posture and not slouching all the time. Be sure to lift things properly for your back, shoulders, and knees. These things may seem small but they quickly add up.
I have seen some amazing things happen to tight and painful joints when someone cleans up his/her diet. I am no expert, but there is definitely potential for a profound inflammatory change. Consider doing the Whole30 diet or something like it. See what happens for you after a few weeks. You may be surprised!
Exercise that strengthens and stretches your core
Keeping the spine healthy is the first step to keeping all other joints in the body healthy (Read: Why Your Spine Health is Most Important of All). Find a good routine to keep your core and spine toned, but also flexible. Yoga, Pilates, or a good wellness exercise program from your therapist several days a week is a great practice. Try to work the arms/legs together with the core if you can! See Videos of Core Mobility and Strengthening Exercises we like to give our patients.
Rest and Respecting your Body
Sometimes we overdo it. That comes with living a full life, and that’s ok! What’s not ok is failing to acknowledge it. If your body is out of sorts, give it a few days off, try to get your sleep, stretch a little, and resume when the body feels better. Seek some kind of treatment if this doesn’t work. Don’t keep forging ahead with your “to-do list”, because in the long run, this strategy won’t work. Listen to your body. It’s best to show it some respect every once in awhile!
There are many benefits from Craniosacral Therapy (CST), which is a gentle, non-invasive form of Osteopathic Manual Therapy that I use every day in my practice. It’s great for people who find conventional approaches (such as medications, exercises or...