Even the slightest hint of spring stirs hopes for getting in shape and becoming more active. Nowadays we physical therapists hear from patients about many fundamental physical frustrations. These include: “Every time I try to exercise, an old injury flares up and I have to stop.” Or, “I have had to give up several different sports, such as tennis and basketball, and I am trying not to give up other games, like golf.”
Another common frustration is in not being able to lose weight because exercising is too painful. And still other frustrations emerge when you are told this is just part of getting older. Although understandable as a reason if you are age 80 or 90, it shouldn’t be a reason given to someone in his or her 20s, 30s 40s or 50s.
Another common physical frustration is voiced by women who have returned to their pre-pregnancy weight and are struggling to get rid of their tummy by doing abdominal exercises. They are told to strengthen their abs but are frustrated that key muscles don’t seem to want to strengthen, and that tummy just isn’t going down, even though they are otherwise thin.
These and other physical frustrations are usually the way your body communicates that something is out of balance or that you are structurally out of alignment. Frustration is understandable, because you are asking your body to do something that it cannot structurally do without sacrificing mobility or causing increased wear and tear somewhere else.
To see whether your body is giving you some important signs, ask yourself if any of these problems are new in the past year:
- Have you noticed your pant legs look shorter on one side?
- Does the zipper on your pants appear crooked when you wear them?
- Does the material in the sleeve of you shirt feel twisted?
- Do you have trouble sitting on a bicycle seat?
- Does having your hair washed by a hairdresser bother your neck?
- Do you need 2-3 pillows propped under your neck at night to get comfortable?
- Do you have trouble blow-drying your hair?
- Do you avoid activities such as loading the dishwasher, backing your vehicle up any distance, raking or vacuuming?
- Do you find yourself sitting when you peel vegetables or do other cooking preparations or do you find it difficult to stand still in waiting lines?
- Do you find yourself very aware of uneven walking surfaces?
- Do you have difficulty finding comfortable shoes? Is taking a deep breath difficult?
If you have answered yes to recent changes in many of these activities, your body may be trying to get your attention. Each of these “body speak” questions is designed to tell you of slowly progressing limitations you may wrongly chalk up to getting older.
The first three questions relate to changes in how clothing fits. Most often we blame the clothing and not ourselves. We may think that the material has shrunk or that it was irregular when purchased; however, when most clothing starts to act and feel the same way, it should be an indication something in your body is changing.
The fourth question examines new changes to your tailbone or “sit bones” or ischial tuberosities. If you have never had a problem there before, and biking, for example, becomes unexpectedly uncomfortable, your body needs to be evaluated by a manual physical therapist, especially if you have taken a fall or recently given birth.
Questions 5, 6, 7 and 8 examine changes in positions of comfort for your neck and your ability to twist and bend your spine and rib cage.
Question 9 examines the static position of standing. There are many medical reasons why someone has difficulty standing in one place, but alignment often plays a significant role.
Questions 10 and 11 look at the biomechanics of your feet as they relate to your center of gravity. Again, think of these as new, not longstanding changes. A recently developed bunion when you never have had foot problems before often has something to do with biomechanical alignment.
Lastly, recent difficulty in taking a deep breath when you have not been diagnosed with a lung problem, in combination with some of the other difficulties above, can indicate biomechanical problems.
It is always best first to check these problems with a physician to rule out pathology, but if nothing is diagnosed medically, your body may be expressing biomechanical alignment woes. See a physical therapist trained in manual therapy and a holistic approach to treatment.
Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!