Developing Physical Awareness


Injury Prevention

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How are you holding up during these times? Are you doing well? Or are you stressed and feeling like you’re constantly performing a juggling act? No matter how you’re doing during these times, now is as good a time as any to be physically aware of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Since our bodies respond differently during times of stress versus relaxation, developing physical awareness will help you develop better habits to prevent future injury.

There are two systems at work within our autonomic nervous system, and it’s important to be aware of them: the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is often described as the “resting and digesting” system while the sympathetic nervous system is often described as the “fight or flight” system. Each of these systems are meant to be in balance, but we as humans often tip the scale towards one system over the other. During times like these, it’s often our sympathetic system that is heavily weighted, mostly because we’re on edge and constantly responding to stimuli without being fully aware of our responses; we’re being reactionary rather than thoughtful. As clinicians at Hartz Physical Therapy, it’s one of our goals to help you reduce sympathetic nervous system activation and restore a more normal balance within your autonomic nervous system. So, how do we achieve this balance? One way is to develop physical awareness.

When we are physically aware of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, we are able to focus on what’s important and allow our bodies to move through intentional movement patterns (such as walking, lifting and carrying) without issue. When we lack physical awareness, our bodies compensate. And because our bodies love to compensate, we often develop muscle imbalances. And if we let our bodies compensate for too long, these imbalances can lead to injury; however, we can alter the trajectory of these bodily compensations by becoming more physically aware of what our bodies are doing and how they’re doing it. Developing this physical awareness will reduce the tendency to compensate and therefore help prevent injury.

What are some practical steps to develop physical awareness? Firstly, breathe. Focus on slow, deep breaths. Some people find it helpful to close the eyes so that distractions can be eliminated. Try breathing when laying down or sitting upright. Concentrate on your inhales and exhales and allow your body to relax with each breath. Check out our blog post titled “The Importance of Breathing” for more tips. Secondly, do one thing at a time and focus on what you’re doing at that moment. Stop texting while driving. It sounds straightforward, but this principle can be applied to many areas in life. Doing too many things at once disallows your brain from fully being present in the moment and can potentially cause harm. Finally, exercise with slow and focused movement. Learn to isolate muscles in order to properly develop movement control, which is vital to injury prevention. Focused breathing while exercising can help facilitate this isolation.

Physical awareness is very important. We’d love to help you develop better awareness, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a consultation!

View a video about this very topic.