Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of “appreciating the non-toothache”. When we have a toothache, we long for the simple pleasure of not having one. When the toothache is gone we may relish in the delight of not having one for a bit, but eventually this appreciation wanes. We may even go back to the old habits that contributed to the toothache in the first place. Is it possible to maintain a daily appreciation for a normal, functioning tooth, or for the purpose of this article, a normally functioning body? If we did, might we treat our bodies with more care?
This toothache adage can easily be applied to the phenomenon of joint pain. It is typical to get a pain in the knee, shoulder, wrist, etc. and, for a time, be willing to do anything to get rid of that pain. Once we get back to baseline, do we appreciate the feeling of being there? Do we shift back to our old ways (ie. stop performing the stretching and strengthening exercises that helped us ) until the pain rolls around again?
Like cars, bodies need proper maintenance to keep functioning well. This is not to say that if we take proper care we will never experience pain or injury, but why not do what we can to prevent the things we can prevent? If you are interested in protecting your joints, the following are some tips that can help keep you structurally sound:
– Take care of the muscles that take care of your joints: Keeping the muscles that surround our joints strong and flexible is necessary for good health. Tight muscles can pull on joints and contribute to discomfort. Weak muscles put unnecessary pressure on the joint and eventually wear it down. A proper strength training routine, along with exercises and stretches that support good range of motion, will give your joints the support they need.
-Become aware of alignment: More often it’s the little day to day insults to our joints, as opposed to a singular traumatic events, that lead to chronic pain. Taking up a modality that focuses on proper alignment such as yoga or pilates can help promote posture awareness and lead to better movement patterns in day to day life.
-Appreciate the non-joint ache: When you are feeling normal, take a moment to appreciate feeling normal. Close your eyes and feel what it feels like to not be in pain. The more you take time to appreciate a normally functioning body the greater the likelihood you will take strides to keep it that way.
-Appreciate the joints that don’t ache: Are you in pain right now? Close your eyes and focus on somewhere, anywhere, in your body that feels good. Realize that, although pain sucks, all sensations good and bad are temporary. Take whatever measures you can to alleviate discomfort and have faith that this too will pass.
Need some more motivation to keep those joints moving?