Getting Started with your own Self-Maintenance Practice. Part 1

“All humans have the right and responsibility to perform maintenance on their own body.” -Dr. Kelly Starrett.
So here is how most people handle their own self-maintenance. You wake up one day and have some sort of pain. Your knee is swollen, you have a rash, your arm keeps going numb. And what do you do? First order of business: rest and hope everything goes away on its own. If that doesn’t work, you ice it or take medication. And if THAT doesn’t work, you go to a doctor who will then first prescribe rest and ice/medication. After that comes surgery, and then more chronic pain, scar tissue, and problems.
An important topic to understand when it comes to pain management is the categories of pain and injury. Once you understand these categories, you can begin to self-diagnose whether or not the problem you are having should be addressed via the movement and mobility tools coming in later blogs, or via a physician. These categories are:

  1. Pathology- This refers to diseases. People get sick; it’s a part of life. Different diseases can rear their ugly head in different ways. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: fever, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, night sweats, changes in bowel/bladder function and diarrhoea. If you are experiencing any of these with any regularity, you should probably see your physician.
  2. Catastrophe- Shit happens. Sometimes an external force that is out of your control comes at you and severely injures your body. You are playing soccer and someone lands on the side of your knee and the whole joint shatters. You’re walking up a staircase, trip, land with your hands, and your wrists break. It happens. If you break a bone, rip a muscle in two, or have profuse bleeding, please go see your doctor.
  3. Motor-Control- This means your posture in any given activity. Whether you are just standing, or running, or squatting double your bodyweight, if you move poorly and have bad posture, then your body will break down at an accelerated rate and you will likely eventually have some serious issues down the road.
  4. Mobility- Sometimes parts of your body are under too much tension. This restricts your ability to move even if you have impeccable motor-control in your movements. But flexibility is much, much more than just how short or long any given muscle is. Rather, it has much more to do with your hydration, body temperature, joint capsule mobility, sliding surfaces and even tension in your nervous system and brain. Any, and all, of these factors can contribute to lack of range of motion, and this lack of mobility accelerates damage in joints, decreases overall energy levels, and significantly increases your chances for injury.
 A decent squat position. Note the feet are parallel, and the knees are being shoved out.

A decent squat position. Note the feet are parallel, and the knees are being shoved out.

 A much-less-than-optimal squat position. This collapsed knee position is an example of using body position as a leading indicator. We know this position unwinds your ACL and PCL and creates slack in the knee. This slack allows the tibia and femur to move more independently of each other, and drastically increases the possibility of an ACL tear.

A much-less-than-optimal squat position. This collapsed knee position is an example of using body position as a leading indicator. We know this position unwinds your ACL and PCL and creates slack in the knee. This slack allows the tibia and femur to move more independently of each other, and drastically increases the possibility of an ACL tear.

Diseases and catastrophes happen. They are just a part of life and cannot be controlled as well as we would like. Fortunately however, according to Dr. Kelly Starrett, pathology and catastrophe only make up 2% of your everyday problems. Your posture and your mobility together make up the other 98%, and are 100% in your control if you are willing to start paying attention to your own movements. What this means, is that if you can understand what a good position is, and how to fix a lack of good position, then you can prevent the vast majority of physical problems you will ever likely have.
This is why I do not want to use pain as a diagnostic tool. Pain is a lagging indicator; you don’t actually feel pain until AFTER you have experienced some damage. In fact, you may never feel any pain in your knee until after you tear your meniscus from squatting so poorly. And that is a difficult injury to come back from. Another point about pain is that you never really feel pain when you are adrenalized. If you are playing a sports game, working out, or on a military mission and are under a massive amount of stress, then you may not feel any pain from impacts or punctures until after your stress hormones settle down a bit. So we do not want to use pain as a diagnostic tool. Instead, I want to use a LEADING indicator; something that tells me trouble is coming if things persist as they are. This leading indicator is position.
Creaky knees, stiff shoulders and a tight upper back, collapsed arches and an achy lower back. 98% of the time, these are problems that are fixed through fixing your ability to get into good postures. Ask yourself these questions the next time you are feeling chronic pain:
-Did you suddenly wake up and things were awry, or was there some clear cut incident that caused the pain?
-Are you sore because you performed a hard workout or a different set of movements than you are used to in general, or could you have been exposed to an illness?
Hopefully this will get you to think about why you might be feeling what you are feeling, and if a doctor visit is really necessary. In the next two blogs, we will cover how to fix motor-control problems, and how to fix mobility problems, and also how to prevent problems from all together happening. Low back pain is a 10-15 billion dollar a year problem in America. The vast majority of cases are completely preventable. If you understand how to fix and get into good body shapes, then you can do just that- prevent back pain, and most other joint and muscles injuries.