As it’s been a while since I last wrote anything, I thought I’d produce another blog post. This one is about why it’s so important to have treatment on a regular basis, even if you don’t currently have an injury!
"do you wait until your car breaks down to have it serviced? If the answer is no, then why wait until you’re in pain before you book in for maintenance treatment?"
An ‘MOT’ for your body:
You know what a mechanic is, they are individuals who service and repair vehicles. What I do is essentially the same, except I service the human body – add ‘bio’ (biological) to ‘mechanics’ to get ‘biomechanics’. This field examines the alignment and movement of the human body, and helps to identify if something is out of kilter, just as a mechanic would be able to tell you if your car has a wonky wheel. So, while the human body and cars have their similarities in the sense that everything has an optimal alignment and everything does a specific job, the attitude we take towards the maintenance of these two things couldn’t be more different. After all, do you wait until your car breaks down to have it serviced? If the answer is no, then why wait until you’re in pain before you book in for maintenance treatment? Through our typical, unnatural everyday lifestyles of sitting at desks, driving cars, looking at mobile phones, walking on hard surfaces in poor quality footwear, and increased obesity, we place a tremendous amount of strain on our bodies. This constantly upsets the optimal, delicate balance of the human structure, which causes muscle imbalances, pain and injury. Yet for some reason, we seem to treat our cars better than we do ourselves, which I find extraordinary given the fact on average we have several cars in our lifetime, but we only get one body! That’s why no matter how busy our schedules are, it is important to take time out for ourselves to have regular MOT treatments, as if we don’t have our health, then what do we have?
It's Important to Finish what you Started!
Despite having a lot of repeat, regular bookings from people who do see the value in having an MOT, there are always the ‘one-timers’, or those who drop out of a treatment programme after just a few sessions. This is incredibly frustrating for me as a practitioner, as those who drop out part way, or only book in when they’ve got an injury are clearly not going to achieve the best health outcomes possible. Much of the time, after having their first treatment, some people become very complacent – perhaps they have been living in pain for a long time, and the massage has significantly eased this discomfort. Therefore, many people think that they are now ‘fixed’, and there is no need for further intervention, despite my best efforts to convince them otherwise. However, nobody is fixed after just a quick massage, because what have you actually done to stop the pain from coming back, i.e. have you addressed the cause for the injury? For instance, if you have tightness in your upper hamstring on one leg due to a weaker glute muscle on that side compared to the other, you can have treatment on the area to reduce the symptoms, but until you strengthen the glute, the problem will continue to come back…
"nobody is fixed after just a quick massage, because what have you actually done to stop the pain from coming back, i.e. have you addressed the cause for the injury?"
I mean no disrespect in saying this, but it really isn’t that difficult to gain an entry-level sports massage qualification, and that will allow you to give people a basic rub-down. However, the crucial difference is being able to play the detective, follow the trail of clues, and identify the underlying cause of the injury occurring in the first place. That’s why I give an aftercare programme, as it is important to keep the treatment plan under close review by gathering patient feedback, adding and subtracting things as necessary, and monitoring progress over time. And that’s the key phrase: ‘OVER TIME’ – it is impossible to fix someone with just one session (despite some expecting miracles), especially if the problem has been going on for a while, has gotten worse, and in reality the patient should have booked in months ago. It takes a long-term commitment on the patient’s part, and you can’t monitor a person’s long-term progress if they only see you once or twice.
More Regular Check-ups are Advised in the Wake of an Injury:
It's also worth bearing in mind that it often takes more than one session just to get rid of the tightness that has been allowed to accumulate, and this tightness will come back quicker in the initial stages of a treatment programme, as sufficient time has not yet passed to strengthen the body enough to prevent the issue from returning. Also, as the body is in a more vulnerable state post-injury, more regular treatment is needed to promote faster healing – after all, an athlete wants to limit time out due to injury as much as possible! This isn’t to say that once the body is stronger that no treatment is necessary ever again. This is because even someone with near-perfect biomechanical alignment will get tight eventually, especially if they have a heavy training/competition schedule, and/or have a physically demanding job. What the aftercare does aim to achieve however, is to give the person greater longevity so they don’t have to book in quite as often!
"as the body is in a more vulnerable state post-injury, more regular treatment is needed to promote faster healing – after all, an athlete wants to limit time out due to injury as much as possible!"
It’s your Insurance Policy!
I often use this analogy, as like an insurance policy, regular treatment offers you protection, in this case from being injured. If you ever choose to not take out an insurance policy, then further down the line something happens which provides a necessity to make a claim, it can end up being very costly, and it’s the same with the body. For example, imagine you have dedicated a lot of time and energy into training for something big; like a marathon, only to suffer an injury a few weeks before the event – imagine the stress and aggravation that would cause as you are desperately trying to rehab the issue in time for the race, while your fitness you have built up is beginning to wane away, and serious doubt has been cast over whether or not you’ll be able to compete. Not only this, but in an attempt to recover in time, it probably ends up being just as financially costly in treatment bills as it would have been if you had opted for regular preventative treatment, due to the need to fund several sessions of rehab over a short period. This is especially frustrating when this could easily have been avoided, as most injuries are. So while regular treatment doesn’t end your chances of becoming injured entirely, it does significantly reduce them!
It's not just athletes that this applies to either – what if you’re a self-employed individual, and you are reliant on your body because you do a physical job? If you suffer an injury due to a lack of maintenance, and can’t work, you will lose money as there is no sick pay when self-employed! Not to mention the added financial strain due to the need for regular treatment in this situation to ensure a swift return to work. Therefore, the security from preventative practices can go a long way to protect your livelihood!
"If you ever choose to not take out an insurance policy, then further down the line something happens which provides a necessity to make a claim, it can end up being very costly, and it’s the same with the body. For example, imagine you have dedicated a lot of time and energy into training for something big; like a marathon, only to suffer an injury a few weeks before the event"
In sum, as illustrated with the points above, a little investment can go a long way, and this is especially important in relation to maintaining optimal health – after all, you only get one body! However, despite this, in times of financial difficulty when people need to tighten their belts, it is quite often the healthy pursuits that are among the first things to suffer a lack of funding, while many of the bad habits remain. I would also like to say that I love my job, as it allows me to help people by improving their quality of life, and putting them in a better position to achieve their sporting ambitions. Therefore, I’m certainly not trying to encourage people to book in more regularly so I can squeeze as much money out of them as possible (if that were the case, I’d be charging a lot more than I currently do so I am on par with some other practitioners). Rather, I hope this blog has done something in the way of highlighting to you the benefits of booking in more often, and maybe encourage you to do so.