It’s true! Your body is very much like a car. This is an analogy I use (one of MANY) with my clients. If you owned a Bugatti or a Porsche, would you ignore warning signs that it was failing or if it needed servicing, would you not take care of it?
Many clients come to me when they are experiencing pain or have an injury. Most think that they should only see a physical therapist when they are having these symptoms. However, our bodies, actually, give us warning signs BEFORE we reach the point of pain or injury. Take your car, for example. When it wants you to know that something needs to be looked at or checked out, a warning sign comes on. It could be as simple as you need to fill the gas tank or put some air in your tires. It could be more complex and ominous such as when the “check engine” light comes on. In any one of these scenarios, you can ignore the warning light for a period of time and nothing will happen. But we all know that it’s not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN you’ll need to get your car looked at.
If you don’t put air in your tires, you can run on them for a few days to weeks (depending on how far and often you drive your car), if you don’t fill your gas tank you could probably still run 20-30 miles (depending on how efficient your car is) when the light comes on, and if your check engine light comes on, well, you can probably ignore that for a while depending on what is going on (a number of things can cause your check engine light to come on). The point is that eventually, your car will need to be serviced or something will happen (flat tire – maybe leading to an accident, being stranded on the side of the road with no fuel etc…). But there were warning signs along the way. Your body works the same way – that nagging ache, or that discomfort with certain movements, those chronically tight hips etc… are all warning signs. It’s just a matter of whether or not we recognize the warning signs, and if we choose to act on them.
When we buy a car, an owner’s manual comes with it so that if there’s a light or something we aren’t familiar with in the car, we can look to it for assistance. Some of these lights are things we can resolve on our own – such as filling up our gas tank, or pumping out tires with air – but some of the lights are signs for things we need a mechanic or the dealership to take a look at – such as the check engine light. We’re not born into this world with an owner’s manual to our body and how it works. That’s why I spend so much time educating and explaining to my clients the importance of what I’m doing during our sessions – so that they can have tools to turn to if something similar were to happen in the future (analogous to being able to pump your own gas the next time you run low).
Here are a few questions that I think will help anyone begin to get acquainted with their body’s way of communicating:
- Are you under a lot of stress?
- Are you sleeping enough?
- Do you have to modify certain or all of your exercises during a workout?
- Do you have soreness that lasts much longer than it should?
- Are there movements you can ONLY do a certain way (decreased ability to adapt)?
- Do you have areas of tightness that don’t seem to ever go away?
- Do you find that you fatigue quickly with certain exercises?
These questions are just a start – if you answered yes to any of these, you will want to look a little deeper into the issue. For things like being stressed or not getting enough sleep – these will eventually lead to other medical diseases or cause your body to physically lock up a joint (or joints) and manifest themselves as a physical disease if not taken care of ASAP. You can start managing both of these on your own with apps for meditation (stress management) and practicing good habits for better sleep (you can start with these). If those don’t seem to be helping, then you may need to go see a professional.
For the other 5, it’s important to find the root cause of why you’re experiencing these symptoms. Hint: It’s usually never as simple as – stretch it and it’ll feel better. If we ask enough “Why’s” we’ll usually find a deeper reason for the physical ailments. But, whatever you do, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t ignore the symptoms (aka warning signs). We’re so in tune with our cars and maintaining them and keeping them well running, yet we often forget that we only have 1 body and ignore the symptom(s) our body tries to tell us to address.