As a kid, I remember a time where my father was interested in the guitar. I don't remember him actually playing the guitar, but he was always tinkering with it, buying strings, and trying to get it in tune. That poor guitar was the victim of four young boys using it as a toy machine gun, or battle axe, and even a trampoline. If you have ever played a musical instrument (I haven't), knowing how to get it in tune is necessary. Or so I've heard.
How about your body? Do you know how to get it in tune? When you suffer from discomfort in the joints, do you immediately blame the site of pain? For example, millions of people complain of lower back pain. I have clients who were afraid of doing an exercise due to lower back problems. Their history is filled with visits to the doctor, a variety of pain medications, and even surgery. "My lower back pain isn't my fault, it's genetic. I always had problems there. I just have a weak and tight back."
Is your lower back to blame? Functional Movement expert Gray Cook has an excellent way of explaining this. The victim and the culprit. Most of us are not in tune with our bodies. We are unaware of what areas are truly the tight or stiff regions, and blame our back as the culprit.
“They will more often complain of the stiff and sore back than the significant mobility restrictions in their hips. However, if we tested both the hips and spine for mobility, they might be surprised to find the actual mobility of the back is closer to optimal than are the hips.
In this all-too-common example, the back is the overworked victim, not the slacker causing the primary problem. The hips are further from optimal mobility than the back and therefore are a larger problem. The back must bend a little more, twist a little further, and actually give up some reflex stability to allow postural control and movement patterns.” Excerpt From: Gray Cook. “Movement.”
Sitting all day at work, in your car and then at home causes the hips to be tight when they should be mobile. In the all too common sitting position, the upper back (thoracic spine) also tightens, rounds forward and loses its mobility. This mobility has to go somewhere, and so enters the "victim" in our story, the lower back (lumbar spine). End scene, cue the orchestra.
If that sounds like you, don't accept daily back pain as your fate. Stop being the victim and learn how to tune your body. First, start breathing correctly.
Second, choose a movement that addresses the problem, in this case the back. Set an alarm to go off on your phone multiple times a day and then get up off the chair and do THIS MOVE.
After a few days, see how that "tight" back feels. This approach can be used for other parts of the body. I've had clients with knee problems return to their activity of choice after mobilizing tight ankles. The practice of tuning in to your body can happen when you do any movement. It's an opportunity to teach the brain how to move better. The goal is to know and trust your body's ability to do things without hurting yourself.
Sometimes a simple stretch will help and sometimes it won't. You might have to stop eating inflammatory foods and drop some weight in order to get relief. Or maybe the problem is running more than 20 miles a week with a heel strike. Sometimes you will have to ask for help from a professional. The point is that if you try one thing and it doesn't work, don't give up and and wait for things to magically get better. Do what my father did when working on his guitar. Curse a little bit, take a deep breath and then get back to tuning. You can't go and buy a new body.