I’m constantly reminded of this term “overextended” as I see its effects on my patients, as well as myself. A little background. Early humans had a pretty functional system for staying alive, see tiger = fire sympathetic nervous system = run away fast. In this modern era, our saber toothed tigers, have been transformed to work deadlines, financial concerns, relational issues, homework, what’s for dinner?, etc., etc.. In our minds, we still fire our primitive system to “run away”.
While my stresses aren’t likely to result in becoming dinner for a family of tigers, they still result in the same sympathetic nervous system response. So here’s my problem: if I don’t do the same thing as early man did after escaping, namely to curl up and care for my wounds, then I keep the “run away” strategy as my “go to”. Stresses today are sneaky that way. I figure, “well that was really awful (scary, hard, exciting, exhausting, boring, sad, etc.) but at least I’m not somethings’ dinner, so…..I guess I can move on to the next thing, and the next and then I’ll have some coffee so I can get to the next, and who has time to sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Sound familiar?
So……in the scenario above, I fire those muscles that help me run away – namely the extensors of my back and neck and butt and calves, except I don’t balance my life with those muscles that help me curl up and relax (and a concept for another day….to BREATHE) My body’s not fooled – it will let me know with a host of ailments those overactive neck, back, calf, etc muscles can produce when not balanced with their healing counterpart muscles.
My days at Advance Physical Therapy are spent primarily reminding my patients, (and myself), where the “healing” muscles they need are, and how to fire them again. I’m continually amazed at how contracting a hamstring, an adductor, an internal oblique, a lower trapezius, a tricep, etc., etc., can very quickly shut down a painful back, neck, jaw, hip, knee, etc. and relieve weeks, months and often times years of nagging pain. Naps are good too!
Jean Masse Genova DPT, OCS, ATC