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How Your Body Actually Works: Explained Like You’re 65

Tennis 2014

Reality is that you are now armed with the wisdom of time, but equipped with an actively degenerating body. You likely now have the time to pay attention to your body, but may have less to work with than you had hoped. Your joints are probably stiffer, your spine has shrunk half an inch and your toes look like a bunch of mashed up, gnarly tree roots. Getting Old Sucks was the title of section one in my book for a reason: our bodies progressively require more and more maintenance over time just to keep them feeling okay. After sixty-five years of abusing your body, you may have resigned yourself to the idea that you can’t change now and that your aches and pains are simply a product of your age. I hope that the next few paragraphs will change your mind.

Thirty years is a long time. If you are sixty-five now, there is a reasonable chance that you will live for three more full decades with a body that is continuing to breakdown over time. Think about how much you have done since you were thirty-five, now visualize what you see yourself doing until you are ninety-five. I promise you that you will enjoy your third lap around more if don’t blame things on your age and instead work at improving things that you didn’t have time for in your second lap. You may not be able to go back and fix your gnarly toes or your rounded shoulders, but you can prevent them from getting worse and likely improve them more than you had ever thought possible. Your enjoyment in life for the next thirty years will most likely be closely correlated with your physical strength, mobility and balance in a way you have not experienced in the past sixty years. Read More

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How Your Body Actually Works: Explained Like You’re 35

Your body is comprised of a series sensory feedback loops that help you interact, engage and react to the world around you; you are aware of some of them, but there is a lot going on under the surface that you likely don’t appreciate.  Your brain is constantly barraged by information from your eyes, ears, skin, muscles, joints, ligaments and organs, and it subconsciously decides which information you should really be paying attention to.  Your subconscious usually makes good decisions, but it is very influenced by emotional factors like stress and anxiety.  Your body is always creating new data for your brain, but your mood and personality will strongly impact what you do or don’t attend to mentally.  Pain is a good example of this phenomenon, but it takes a bit more groundwork to explain why this doesn’t just mean that pain is “all in your head.”

Your ability to experience pain is an important evolutionary trait that helps your brain determine what is or isn’t safe for your body.  You can sense when something is too hot and may risk damaging your skin, when something is too sharp that it may cut you or if an object is putting too much pressure on you that it could injure tissues.  You live in a busy environment that requires you to sense, react and move in response to the forces around you and within you.  Your body will create a homeostatic resting state that becomes what you experience as your ‘normal,’ and you need to be able to sense when things fall outside of that normal so you can take action to help keep yourself healthy.  Pain is one of the signals that something is not normal, just like fever, altered heart rate, pins and needles, blurry vision, or a change in your balance.  Read More

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How Your Body Actually Works: Explained Like You’re 5

tomorrow. five.

Your body is part of who you are; it belongs to you.  You are responsible for it.  Your mother helped you build it, but it’s your job to grow it.  You get to grow your body by moving, seeing, eating, breathing, talking, laughing, touching, smelling, crying, running and jumping.  You get to experience it for about ninety years, that’s almost 33,000 days of doing stuff.  Every time you do something, your body learns.  Every time you try, your body remembers. The more you try, the more you learn.  The more you learn, the more fun your body becomes.  It can learn to run faster, sing better and think deeper when given time and practice.

Play

Some people’s bodies’ will learn faster than others and some people’s bodies’ will be bigger than others.  Some will seem smarter and some will seem stronger, but your body is yours and you are responsible to help it learn.  You can learn from watching, and listening, and reading, but nothing is better than actually doing.  You can learn anything you want, you just have to try and try and try, most of the time you won’t be very good at it, but each time you try your body will get a little bit better because it loves to learn.

Reading

What you do with your body will affect how it feels, inside and out.  On the outside you have skin, a big waterproof suit that keeps all your guts and muscles and nerves on the inside while allowing you to feel everything on the outside.  Skin lets you feel what’s sharp and what’s dull, what’s hot and what’s cold; it is your body’s connection to the world.  When you are young your skin is tight and smooth, but as you get older it gets stretched out and wrinkly. Read More

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Empathy Over Ego: the art of active listening as a health professional

picture grid for empathy article

Sincere empathy can be a challenge for many healthcare professionals because we are confronted with an endless stream of people that have encountered horrible life events and we can’t possibly begin to understand the psychological stressors that they are now facing, either real or perceived.  Many of us work in healthcare models that give us very limited time with a client due to the volume of people we are trying to help and/or the financial constraints of who is paying for our time.  The combination of these two factors doesn’t usually result in a positive experience for patients trying to navigate through their medical system armed with only a very superficial knowledge of their bodies.

Our medical systems are typically very good at keeping people alive, but after that they can become a series of very stressful life events that cause just as much harm as good to a person’s psyche. People that find themselves caught in a cycle of chronic pain are the prime example of how someone can do everything right in their search for help, but end up having the process actually cause more harm than their original injury.  Chronic pain is a combination of entangled physical and psychological stressors that shifts more and more towards the cognitive side as time passes.  Every new professional that a patient sees and has to tell his story to without receiving some form of empathy and/or meaningful explanation further feeds the fire of fear, stress and anxiety related to his pain.

Healthcare professionals are trained to first and foremost screen for ‘red flags,’ or signs of something more sinister than a simple muscle strain.  Physicians have the most knowledge and experience of the various sinister conditions and because of that fact their approach to dealing with less threatening issues like low back pain can become both less useful and less empathetic.  Read More

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