Total Body Awareness – Listen…even to your own ear
Awareness campaigns, events, and visible pink lights on landmark Chicago buildings help keep specific epidemics and health threats present in our mind, but the special theme months also become part of the noise of our busy lives. Calendar reminders, emails, social media, text messages, phone calls, and streaming videos have filled our eyeballs, fingertips, and minds in every waking moment. Even the pause at a stoplight creates the urge to check our devices for some new alert or interaction. The commotion of all these external stimuli and our mobile-device-enabled lives have made it even more difficult to truly listen to our own bodies. In these conditions of constant background noise, only the acute and screaming pains get heard and addressed.
At a prior job, I began to experience daily earaches that would strike around 3:30 pm. These earaches were extremely painful – like icepick stabs to the ear and jaw. The kind of pain that breaks through the noise of even a hectic office job in an active cubicle environment. I thought I had developed an allergy to my afternoon diet soda. (I mean yeah – diet coke certainly isn’t a pro-health drink right?) Only ibuprofen and hot compresses would help ease the pain. After consulting with several ear nose and throat doctors, dentists, and other professionals, my chiropractor diagnosed the issue. It was my posture at my cube. Working on my computer at my desk was straining my neck muscles to the point that by mid-to-late afternoon the right side of my neck would lash out in crisis with stabbing sharp jolts. “Pay attention to me” My chiropractor was confident my pain was related to the “beef jerky-esque” tension he was feeling in my neck. A condition that developed over years at the same cube, same desk, with the same laptop.
I was skeptical of the diagnosis. It was so clearly a pain in my ear and jaw joint. It also seemed directly correlated to my afternoon soda consumption. It didn’t seem possible such specific and acute stabbing pain was caused by strain. My chiropractor gave me some stretches and encouraged that I increase my awareness of posture related stress. By listening more carefully to my body – especially my neck – earlier in the day, I was able to start sensing when my neck strain was heading to icepick pain town and use the stretches to head it off. My busy work life had blocked out my ability to recognize the signals from my neck muscles until someone reminded me how to listen.
For me, total body awareness requires making time to shut out the noise of life and have quiet moments of self-reflection – not only for mental review of events and interactions but for a focused examination of my physical self. Where am I holding tension, where am I stiff, what parts may feel some exhaustion from recent exertion, where do I sense increased or reduced range of motion? Awareness helps me self-correct if possible, or ask for help from a professional to assess or improve the issue.
Don’t let your busy life keep you from a quiet moment where you can block out external stimuli, take some deep breaths, and really focus on and listen to each part of your body. Without checking in on your body and making time for total body awareness, you may be missing important messages from your body that can help you lead a less painful and more fulfilling life.
…by Susan Emery,
Hip Circle Empowerment Center Board Member