Two easy ways to help your body heal

There are two things that I have found to be common among the people I have treated who suffer from recurring pain and injury. These two things are easy to fix and super helpful to the body.

What are they? They don't drink enough water. And they don't stretch.

Good habit 1: drink more water

That so many people don't drink enough water has surprised me, as I thought the messages from the medical community about drinking enough water have gotten out. But it seems that there are still a lot of people who don't realise the importance of drinking water. Many others do know they should drink more water but don't.

Doctors recommend 2 litres of water a day. Use that as a general guide, but listen to what your body needs. It may vary given your type, level of exercise, etc. Overhydration isn't helpful either. So pay attention to what your body needs.

An easy habit to get into is to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. In addition to giving you some needed hydration first thing, it helps flush your body. This is a recommended practice in most Eastern healing traditions for good reason. If you don't like the taste of water, try adding a slice of lemon, a little grated ginger, a slice of cucumber.

I drink a large glass of water, about 1/4 litre, while I am waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning. It's a super easy habit to build and will soon become automatic. You might prefer to keep a glass ready by your bedside, so you can drink it as soon as you get up. Whatever you do, make it easy for yourself, and you'll soon not even have to think about it. It will become automatic.

Good habit 2: stretch more

That so many people stretch hasn't surprised me as much. What has surprised me is that people with chronic pain from repetitive work, sitting, or hard labour don't take the time for even a little stretching.

We are constantly using our muscles, even when sitting at a desk and especially when our work is physical, e.g. building work. Repetitive movements, lack of movement, and straining our muscles can all cause muscles to tighten, which in turn can cause other muscles to compensate and get overstrained. Eventually, more severe injuries can occur as the body can no longer support whatever activities you have been doing.

By stretching regularly before serious injury occurs, you can prevent any such problems from occurring and keep your body feeling happy and healthy. But you already know this. The challenge for all of us that aren't professional sports players is that building a habit of regular stretching is hard, especially when we don't see those around us doing it.

My top tip here is to find some stretches that are right for you and the muscles that most need it. You might need to work with a specialist here, e.g. a physiotherapist or a yoga instructor, to figure out good stretches/poses for you. Be sure to ask for things you can do quickly and easily throughout your day. For example, the simple arm stretch of raising your arms, interlocking your fingers and stretching above your head or behind your back can do wonders for people with tight shoulders. Try doing this briefly multiple times a day at your desk. You'll soon notice a difference.

Note that it is better to stretch briefly multiple times then overstretch. (Never push to the point of pain, that is overstretching.)

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