What is Health?
Our health is a complex combination of many factors. We all want to be pain free and living happy, healthy lives. Improving any one of these factors, or all if necessary, will have a positive affect on our health and quality of life.
"Sickness is felt, but health not at all."
- Thomas Fuller
We may feel health as a feeling of strength, vitality and clarity of body and mind, or simply as an absence of sickness. Disease, illness, sickness - these are all signs that we are not functioning at our best, that our health has been negatively impacted. In almost all cases we know it when we are sick from the things we feel (symptoms) or things we see (signs) that are not normal for us.
Our physical structure, the musculo-skeletal system is made up of the bones and joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and so on. Many things can go wrong with this system, typically causing pain, which a person will seek the help of an Osteopath to treat. Inside this structure are our internal organs which function to provide us the energy to move, think and heal.
There are a number of things everyone can do to improve their physical health.
Physical activity is everything you do, from mowing the lawns to organised exercise such as working out at they gym. Keeping our body moving will generally improve our health, and keep us healthy¹.
Diet is not just how much and the type of food and drink you consume. It is also your eating habits and attitudes - the timing of when you eat your meals, and whether you feel positive or negative² about the food you are eating.
"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognise as food," (Michael Pollan)
The amount and quality of sleep are important factors in your health. Your body does much of its healing while asleep, and poor sleep will lead to poor healing and health. Working to improve your sleep can go a great way to improving your health.
We are of course more than just muscles and bones, and mental health is a massive part of our entire health profile. Some common areas of mental health that Osteopathy can assist with include stress and anxiety, which physically affects muscle tension. Treatment of the physically affected areas of the body can greatly assist psychological treatments that do not physically treat the body.
Effective treatment will identify the cause of the problem, and not just treat the symptom. For example, if your shoulders and neck are tight from a combination of poor posture and stress, treating the sore muscles alone is simply treating the symptom. As part of your treatment at Edgeworth Osteopathy, I will give you advice on better posture, exercises to strengthen the area, some simple and generalised stress management advice. If more than basic techniques are clinically indicated, I will advise the inclusion of a trained mental health professional to ensure that the underlying problem is addressed.
Stand taller. Standing up straighter and taller gives you more confidence. It's also better posture, which will make you feel better physically, and save you a lot of shoulder and neck pain.
Learn how to breathe properly. Most of us do not breathe deeply enough into our belly (diaphragm), and overexert the smaller muscles around the neck and shoulders.
Do not be afraid (or ashamed) to ask for help. "At first, they'll ask you why you're doing it. Later, they'll ask you how you did it." It is your body, your journey, your health. Don't hold yourself back. Use every resource you can to make yourself the better person that you want to be.
Spiritual / Social Health
Spiritual, or social health is our connection to something greater than ourselves. It is how we relate to and interact with others. Our "village". At the most basic and simple level it is usually our direct (and extended) family. It may take the form of religion and a belief in God. It may be an ideal or concept, such as environmentalism. It may be etheric, esoteric, supernatural or extraterrestrial. Or it may simply be getting together with a group of mates or Mens' Shed.
The support network we have around us, our community or village, will play a significant role in our health, influencing our perception of pain and affecting our mental health. It can keep us alive (we've probably all heard stories of those in a coma who hold onto life until the last family member has a chance to say goodbye). And it can also kill us (like "broken heart syndrome" - after decades of marriage, when one of the couple dies, and the other follows shortly after). It can also provide for our physical needs (a helping hand, meal delivery etc).
In the internet world, the global village can become overwhelming, and drown out the voices much closer to us. For some, there is no village at all, and the health is inevitably affected. Importantly, there are always ways to grow your village and so improve your health and resilience.
¹ World Health Organisation: Physical Activity https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity
² Pänkäläinen, M., Fogelholm, M., Valve, R. et al. Pessimism, diet, and the ability to improve dietary habits: a three-year follow-up study among middle-aged and older Finnish men and women. Nutr J 17, 92 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-018-0400-8
"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."
- Jim Rohn
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