Updated: Nov 11, 2019
A friend of mine has been complaining about hip and sciatic pain to me for a few weeks. He consistently complains about his leg and hip pain, but when I ask him questions about what makes it worse or better, he cannot give me a straight answer.
Another friend complains that her stomach is always bloated, gassy or painful, but refuses to admit that the food she is putting into her body is affecting the way she feels.
These are only two examples of the complaints that I hear every day. Although it’s easy to complain about symptoms, the difficulty comes when you have to be aware and pay attention to what is causing your pain. The pain message is critically important, as it is a symptom that tells us something is wrong. But it’s often misinterpreted.
Do you cross your legs when you sit? Which leg do you apply more pressure on when you’re standing for a long period of time? When you’re squatting in the gym, is your head in line with your spine, do you have an neutral pelvic tilt, are you pressing equally through your heel and big toe? When doing a ‘pull’ exercise, are you keeping your shoulders down (away from the ears) and back so that your upper traps don’t take over your ‘pull’ and exacerbate any neck pain or headaches? Did that salad you ate at lunch contain gluten or dairy? If it didn’t, what else was in it that has caused stomach pain in the past?
Do you even know WHERE your pain in coming from, WHEN it feels better or worse, or HOW to fix it?
You’re not alone…most people don’t even know where to begin. But, let me tell you the secret to figuring yourself out. AWARENESS!
It’s not always easy to tell where it hurts. First and foremost, it is incredibly important to pinpoint where your pain is originating. For example, your headaches might actually be ‘referred pain’ from improper pulling mechanics in the gym. The origin of the pain might actually come from the upper trapezius muscles. Pay attention and be aware of all the different places you’re feeling pain or discomfort. Self-correct your postures where you see necessary and make notes of all postures and/or exercises that make you feel worse so you (or your healthcare provider) can pinpoint the origin of the pain.
When do you feel the pain? Is it all the time, or does it get better or worse when you perform a certain activity? Keep a log so you can deduct what exacerbates your pain. Once you start paying attention, you may notice that a certain type of food gives you stomach pain, or doing work on your laptop while sitting in bed aggravates your neck. Being aware of when your pain increases or decreases are important clues that should not be ignored.
How do you solve your problems? Do a full assessment of the way you lay in your bed when you wake up in the morning, the way you commute to work, your daily activities at work (how do you sit, stand or move throughout the day).
If you can do a full assessment of WHERE, WHEN and HOW and simply be AWARE of your day to day activities, you will be able to recognize what makes your pain better, worse ... or if you're lucky you'll be able to find the origin of your pain.
At the very least, you will have a list of information/clues for your healthcare provider who will more easily diagnose the problem.
If your pain continues or increases, see a doctor, therapist or physical trainer.