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Pain,

the body's

check engine light 

Ever find yourself riding your car down the road or highway and suddenly and seemingly without warning, the check engine light comes on? Or perhaps you got over to your car first thing in the morning started it up to only have the check engine light pop on before you start your ride? If you have driven long enough, I’m sure you have experienced something like this, especially those of us who have an older vehicle. It seems like sometimes all you do is drive for a while, and it comes on, but why does it come on? Well, just like with regards to our bodies, the more we use a car, the more damage it takes on. Now I don’t mean you are going to open the engine and physically punch or kick it to cause damage, but the damage comes from the normal wear and tear of using it.

 

Our bodies work in the same manner as cars operate. The machinery might be different when comparing a human to a car, but some of the rules still apply. Our bodies, just like a car, are composed of all these little parts that, when put together and given energy, turn into a useful moving machine. For the whole structure to move, those small parts have to move, resist, stabilize, and more. The need for these parts to be so dynamic that they undergo a little wear and tear over the lifetime of the person/machine.

The wear and tear we get in our bodies from living life and using our muscles come as a side effect of being alive and is something that we can not avoid. I know some people think that by not being involved in athletics or jobs involving physical labor, they can prevent wear and tear of the muscles, but that is a myth. The body will experience this wear and tear as a natural side effect over time, no matter how much or how little demand you place on it. Muscles will get tight even if we try to stay still, just like when we sit down for too long, then get up only to feel tight.

Holding your body in any position will get the body tight in the position it was holding for a while. Remember how growing up there was always that one person who was usually a caretaker that said, “If you make that face, it’s going to stay that way.” Well, that statement is very true of our entire bodies. If we make it hold a position, the body will make the best effort to maintain the body in that position, even if it means the body’s muscles are now imbalanced. For example, if we are always leaning to our left at work, then the left side of the back will get short and tight.

The stress from how we move or not move comes from the fibers that make up the muscle. Anytime we use a muscle, the fibers in the muscle contract bringing two bones closer together, creating movement. As we make these contractions, sometimes the muscle fibers get short and don’t release, creating a muscle that can’t move as well as it used to. The shortening of these fibers is what we call knots in the muscle, and too many of these cause pain along with muscular dysfunction.

Imbalances between the muscles are what cause pain, whether you created it from moving or not. As long as the muscle was contracted, then the imbalance can occur. When the imbalance grows to a certain level of strength, then the body will start to feel like its slowing down, achy or painful. Well, that achiness or pain is the way our body expresses that our check engine light has turned on. Just like with a car, if you ignore taking care of your vehicle when the check engine light comes on, then sooner or later, a new problem (or problems) develops.

When you ignore your car’s check engine light, this means you might wind up stranded on a highway waiting for a tow truck or worse get involved in a car crash resulting in injury or death. Well, when we ignore the achiness and/or pain that is our check engine light, then that one problem can grow into an injury, and who wants to be injured? Besides, the new injury might wind you up in the emergency room, losing time from living your life. A sudden injury from not giving your body proper maintenance will become more costly in terms of time and money than taking an hour every so often to get the proper physical care for your body from a licensed massage therapist.

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Your car and your body do not have to wait until it breaks down and is unusable, as long as you make sure that you bring your body/machine in for bodywork when things start to change for the worse. Massage therapists and auto mechanics both perform bodywork, but one is on a person while the other is on a car. Are you caring for your body as well you’re caring for your vehicle? If the answer is no, then please get your body a tune-up as soon as possible. You can always buy a new car or machine, but you can’t buy a new body, so make sure your priorities are correct. Take care of your greatest machine, your body, and make sure you get the most out of your body to live your best life.