Bodywork is an essential element of a healthy lifestyle, but far too often is forgotten about. Just as our cars need routine maintenance like an oil change, air in the tires, and all the fluids filled, so too do our bodies need regular work or something major could go wrong.
Many of us have been conditioned to ignore our body's "check engine light" until it's too late and we end up with a serious injury or disease, but it doesn't have to be this way. Pain and discomfort are some of the more obvious signals, and these are sure signs that immediate attention is required. If addressed promptly and properly these symptoms can be reversed and not lead to something more traumatic. Often though people dismiss minor aches and pains as a part of life. These minor issues, when ignored, cause more issues, it's like a snowball effect.
To help explain I'll give a brief description of how connective tissue works:
It is a web of collagen fibers that is inside of, and around all the muscles, and surrounds all the organs. It is a "thixotropic" substance which means it can go from a liquid, to gel, to solid, and then back into a liquid state with pressure applied to it over time. Ideally we want it in it's more fluid state because when it solidifies it will adhere muscles together, or make them stick to bones, or make organs stick together, etc. How this works is that collagen has a crystalline structure and like any crystal, when you apply pressure to it, it creates a piezoelectric current. This current being generated through the tissues is what keeps them healthy. When the tissues are not getting the proper pressure applied they begin to get stagnant and stick together, this is called an adhesion. When one area gets stuck the rest of the body has to change the way it moves in order for us to not fall over. This in turn makes us more susceptible to further adhesions and injury.
Ever heard of someone who was just bending over to tie their shoes one day and "all of a sudden" their back goes out? Well it's not actually "all of a sudden." It's years and years of connective tissue adhesions, and other issues, compiling on top of one another until one day the body can't hold the pressure and something snaps. Regular bodywork can greatly reduce the risk of this ever happening.
Massage addresses these areas of adhesion and, through the proper angle and pressure, releases the tissues so that we can move freely and unrestricted. This in turn allows us to move in a healthier way, reducing our risk of injury and illness. Yes I said illness too! because connective tissue surrounds the organs it has a huge impact on our immune, digestive, circulatory, and endocrine systems. All our organs have to move in order to perform their given tasks; the heart beats, the lungs expand and contract, etc. If their movement is restricted then so too is their performance!
So where exactly does bodywork fit into the overall framework of a healthy lifestyle? To explain this let's talk about the three main aspects of Health. The first pillar being "What we take in." This includes food, water, air, music, energy of our environment, what we watch on t.v., etc. Making sure we take in things that are nourishing is the foundation to our health.
The second aspect is "How we move." This means our posture during movement, and stillness, and what type of movement we are doing. Again, this needs to be nourishing, so finding something that is low impact and not causing injury, while simultaneously circulating fluids and energy is a way to increase our health.
The third is "What bodywork we get." There are issues that arise within our systems that cannot be solved through diet and exercise alone and that's where bodywork comes in. The most important thing to realize here is that like eating healthy and exercising correctly it needs to be a regular part of our healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy once a month doesn't really do much good does it?
Well then what exactly does "Regular bodywork" mean? This is going to depend on each individual and what kind of work the practitioner does. The best thing to do is to set a goal with your practitioner and then ask them how often you should be coming in. Here are some general time frames for common goals:
For the goal of recovering from an acute injury, anywhere from 1-3 times a week.
For maintenance and prevention, 1-4 times a month.
For resolution of an old trauma pattern 1-8 times a month.
(This schedule is for massage/craniosacral therapy, other bodywork modalities may have a different recommended schedule)
Without bodywork we will never be able to function at our optimum level. We will get slowed down by chronic and acute injuries and illnesses. So why not choose a life with less pain, and sickness? Getting regular bodywork will help you live the life you want to be living, so start making it a part of your healthy lifestyle, you'll be glad you did!