Every body has its own state of homeostasis, perfectly balanced and free from tension, injury, and disease. This is the ideal state of our physical selves, the goal towards which we are always striving. What makes it so hard to get there? Life.
Every day our bodies must contend with thousands of different challenges, from high-pressure deadlines at work that leave us unbearably tense to hardcore workouts that leave our muscles exhausted. Even little movements, like carrying your purse or picking up your toddler, have an impact on your body. These day-to-day stresses on our bodies create microinjuries. If we address them quickly, they resolve. If we don’t, they accumulate over time, slowly morphing into imbalances and injuries. Dumping bags of garbage into a truck for a day might leave you sore, but doing it for three decades can leave you incapacitated.
For athletes, these daily challenges are even more extreme. Consider all the muscles involved in just throwing a football. You generate power with your legs and the quick rotation of your upper body, and then you use the smaller muscles in your shoulder, elbow and hands to fine-tune the ball’s direction and release. Every link in this kinetic chain is stressed during every throw, and after doing it hundreds of thousands of times, tensions builds, imbalances develop and muscles go to sleep.
Injuries and imbalances also love company. Our musculoskeletal system is deeply interconnected, and every imbalance has a ripple effect. For instance, if you have a really tight shoulder and you go to reach a cup off the shelf, your body will compensate by recruiting other muscles to help, like your back. It’s a simple adaptation to keep you moving, but your back wasn’t designed to do the work of your shoulder. And if it does that work for too long, it becomes overwhelmed and, later, injured.
All of this is to say that it's impossible to live without developing tension and imbalances in our musculoskeletal system. It’s just part of life. Fortunately, we do have some tools at our disposals—the 3 Rs: Relax, Rebalance, and Reactivate. Although we’ll probably never quite reach that state of perfect homeostasis, we will get a lot closer as we learn how to relax, rebalance, and reactivate our musculoskeletal system.